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BACKGROUND: Outbreaks of spruce budworm (SBW, Choristoneura fumiferana Clem.) cause major recurrent damage in boreal conifers such as white spruce (Picea glauca [Moench] Voss) and large losses of forest biomass in North America. Although defensive phenolic compounds have recently been linked to chemical resistance against SBW, their genetic basis remains poorly understood in forest trees, especially in conifers. Here, we used diverse association genetics approaches to discover genes and their variants that may control the accumulation of acetophenones, and dissect the genetic architecture of these defence compounds against SBW in white spruce mature trees. RESULTS: Out of 4747 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from 2312 genes genotyped in a population of 211 unrelated individuals, genetic association analyses identified 35 SNPs in 33 different genes that were significantly associated with the defence traits by using single-locus, multi-locus and multi-trait approaches. The multi-locus approach was particularly effective at detecting SNP-trait associations that explained a large fraction of the phenotypic variance (from 20 to 43%). Significant genes were regulatory including the NAC transcription factor, or they were involved in carbohydrate metabolism, falling into the binding, catalytic or transporter activity functional classes. Most of them were highly expressed in foliage. Weak positive phenotypic correlations were observed between defence and growth traits, indicating little or no evidence of defence-growth trade-offs. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides new insights on the genetic architecture of tree defence traits, contributing to our understanding of the physiology of resistance mechanisms to biotic factors and providing a basis for the genetic improvement of the constitutive defence of white spruce against SBW.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Plant Biol

Publication Date





Association genetics, Metabolic trade-offs, Pgβglu-1 expression, Phenolic compounds, Spruce budworm, White spruce, Acetophenones, Animals, Moths, Phenol, Picea, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide