GrENE-net is growing up!
90 enthusiastic researchers and 40 institutions, 45 sites, 12 replicate plots per site, ~5 million seeds distributed and sown. This is how GrENE-net started. A globally distributed experiment to study how the plant species Arabidopsis thaliana may genetically evolve to different climates.
GrENE-net experiments have already grown for 1 generation, and we have exciting news: Arabidopsis is growing in many locations! (Fig. 1)
Fig. 1 | Map of sites where Arabidopsis grew and reproduced for the first generation. Total counts of flowers and individual records collected by all GrENE-net participants in 2018.
Fig. 2 | Arabidopsis growing in the campus of the University of Würzburg, Germany (left) and the Israeli Nagev desert (right). Credit: Arthur Korte and Merav Steifan.
Plants successfully fought the local climate even in some very extreme regions. For example, we did not expect them to grow at all in the Negev desert (Fig. 2). Researchers are currently monitoring the second flowering generation, and the coordinators are getting the sequencing pipeline ready.
Evolution must go on!
About one year after the official launch of GrENE-net, in Darwin’s 2017 birthday, the first flowers of this globally distributed evolution experiment just opened.
The site where the first flowers have been spotted is located in Mallorca, a mediterranean island of Spain (black star in the map). This is one of the 45 experimental sites (red circles in the map) that joined GrENE-net and planted the same mixture of seeds last fall.
The team in Mallorca is comprised by Carlos Lara, Gema Escribano, and Anna Traveset. They just took the first sample of flowers that will go into the sequencer in Summer.
Photo credit: Carlos Lara and Gema Escribano
45 experimental evolution sites
90 researchers and 40 institutions, 45 sites, 12 replicate plots per site, ~5 million seeds distributed and sown. This is the start of GrENE-net. A globally distributed experiment to study how the plant species Arabidopsis thaliana may genetically evolve to different climates.
Map of GrENE-net experimental sites (red circles) and the locations of origin of founder genotypes (black points).
The experiments started on fall 2017 and will run at least until 2020! Let’s see how much and whether they evolve in three generations. We expect very strong selection, as the experimental environments span from Israeli desserts to temperate North European forests.
Let the evolution begin!
The founder seed mix
Ever wondered how some million Arabidopsis thaliana seeds look like? (see below)
A Friday of July 2017 we made a big step for the GrENE-net project. We mixed thousands of seeds to generate a common founder population. The seed mixture will then be distributed across the world in controlled experiments to investigate over time how, and whether populations will evolve to climate if all would start with the same genetic diversity.
The mix was generated from seeds of previously grown plants at three different greenhouses and growth chambers (at the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen, the Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology in Montpellier, and the University of Tübingen). These plants were selected from the 1001 Genomes Project collection. A total of 230 genotypes, from a similar number of geographic locations across Europe, North Africa, and Asia.
The GrENE-net coordinators, Moises Exposito-Alonso, François Vasseur, and Niek Scheepens (from left to right), created the master seed mix with extreme care to avoid contamination of the seed mixes with pathogens or with other seeds, and used a high-precision balance in order to record the exact proportion of genotypes in the founder population.
After shaking the mix, we aliquoted ~ 1,500 tubes with ~ 5 thousand seeds that were later shipped to 45 locations around the globe. In fall 2017, the seeds were dispersed and the evolution experiment began!
Today, on Charles Darwin’s 208th birthday, we announce the launch of GrENE-net, a coordinated distributed global evolution experiment to study the Genomics of rapid Evolution in Novel Environments!
We are currently working on the GRENE-Net website. Its launch will be the official start of GRENE-Net.
The seed preparation is well under way. The draft protocol is at an advanced state. Two pilot studies in the field worked out well. The first pool-sequencing data of one of these pilot studies is currently being analysed. And we are building up a network of participants.
We envisage to launch the website within the next few weeks and start the experiment in autumn 2017.