Genomic signatures of convergent adaptation to Alpine environments in three Brassicaceae species

Christian Rellstab, Stefan Zoller, Christian Sailer, Andrew Tedder, Felix Gugerli, Kentaro K Shimizu, Rolf Holderegger, Alex Widmer, Martin C Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has long been discussed to what extent related species develop similar genetic mechanisms to adapt to similar environments. Most studies documenting such convergence have either used different lineages within species or surveyed only a limited portion of the genome. Here, we investigated whether similar or different sets of orthologous genes were involved in genetic adaptation of natural populations of three related plant species to similar environmental gradients in the Alps. We used whole-genome pooled population sequencing to study genome-wide SNP variation in 18 natural populations of three Brassicaceae (Arabis alpina, Arabidopsis halleri, and Cardamine resedifolia) from the Swiss Alps. We first de novo assembled draft reference genomes for all three species. We then ran population and landscape genomic analyses with ~3 million SNPs per species to look for shared genomic signatures of selection and adaptation in response to similar environmental gradients acting on these species. Genes with a signature of convergent adaptation were found at significantly higher numbers than expected by chance. The most closely related species pair showed the highest relative over-representation of shared adaptation signatures. Moreover, the identified genes of convergent adaptation were enriched for nonsynonymous mutations, suggesting functional relevance of these genes, even though many of the identified candidate genes have hitherto unknown or poorly described functions based on comparison with Arabidopsis thaliana. We conclude that adaptation to heterogeneous Alpine environments in related species is partly driven by convergent evolution, but that most of the genomic signatures of adaptation remain species-specific.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4350-4365
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • adaptation
  • Alpine environment
  • Brassicaceae
  • environmental association
  • genome assembly
  • genome scans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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