Identifying genetic sequences underlying insect associations on forest trees will improve the understanding of community genetics on a broad scale. We tested for genomic regions associated with insects in hybrid poplar using quantitative trait loci (QTL) analyses conducted on data from a common garden experiment. The F2 offspring of a hybrid poplar (Populus trichocarpa x P. deltoides) cross were assessed for seven categories of insect leaf damage at two time points, June and August. Positive and negative correlations were detected among damage categories and between sampling times. For example, sap suckers on leaves in June were positively correlated with sap suckers on leaves (P<0.001) but negatively correlated with skeletonizer damage (P<0.01) in August. The seven forms of leaf damage were used as a proxy for seven functional groups of insect species. Significant variation in insect association occurred among the hybrid offspring, including transgressive segregation of susceptibility to damage. NMDS analyses revealed significant variation and modest broad-sense heritability in insect community structure among genets. QTL analyses identified 14 genomic regions across 9 linkage groups that correlated with insect association. We used three genomics tools to test for putative mechanisms underlying the QTL. First, shikimate-phenylpropanoid pathway genes co-located to 9 of the 13 QTL tested, consistent with the role of phenolic glycosides as defensive compounds. Second, two insect association QTL corresponded to genomic hotspots for leaf trait QTL as identified in previous studies, indicating that, in addition to biochemical attributes, leaf morphology may influence insect preference. Third, network analyses identified categories of gene models over-represented in QTL for certain damage types, providing direction for future functional studies. These results provide insight into the genetic components involved in insect community structure in a fast-growing forest tree.
DeWoody, J., Viger, M., Lakatos, F., Tuba, K., Taylor, G., & Smulders, M. J. M. (2013). Insight into the genetic components of community genetics: QTL mapping of insect association in a fast-growing forest tree. PLoS ONE, 8(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0079925