Professor Kentaro Shimizu, Zurich
Ecological genomics of model species and tropical trees
Gene functions in naturally fluctuating environment, coined in natura, is often distinct from those in the laboratory conditions. The flowering time has a considerable effect on plants’ reproductive success. As a proof of concept, we studied Arabidopsis halleri and showed that the FLC gene functions as the memory of the temperature of past six weeks, which would facilitate the prediction of flowering time. Community-level mass flowering of dipterocarp and other species, known as general flowering, which occurs in Southeast Asia at supra-annual irregular intervals, is considered a particularly spectacular phenomenon in tropical ecology. We conducted an “ecological transcriptome” study of a mass flowering dipterocarp species, Shorea beccariana, comparing meteorological data with genome-wide expression patterns obtained using next-generation sequencing. The data supported the hypothesis stating that drought is a trigger for general flowering, and highlights the biological significance of droughts in tropics. I will also talk on the biological significance of genome duplication.