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Fine-scale estimation of outcrossing in western redcedar with microsatellite assay of bulked DNA

O'Connell, L.M., Russell, J., Ritland, K.
Heredity 2004 v.93 no.5 pp. 443-449
Thuja plicata, conifer needles, DNA, sampling, outcrossing, microsatellite repeats, genetic markers, spatial variation, tree crown, branches, selfing, British Columbia
Western redcedar (Thuja plicata, Cupressaceae) is a self-fertile conifer with a mixed mating system and significant variation for outcrossing among populations. In this paper, we conducted a fine-scale study of mating system variation to identify correlates of outcrossing in natural populations. We examined variation for outcrossing within and among individual trees, and describe a new method to estimate outcrossing using bulked DNA samples. Bulking (assaying DNA tissues from several individuals simultaneously) increases the experimental power without increasing the experimental effort. We sampled 80 trees from four natural populations in southwestern British Columbia. From each tree, we sampled from up to six crown positions (three heights and inner vs outer branches). From each position, two samples of three seedlings each were bulked before DNA extractions. Using four microsatellite loci, we obtained outcrossing rates for each tree and for each of the six crown positions. We found individual tree selfing rates to increase with tree height in all four populations, but selfing rates did not differ among crown positions. The higher selfing rate of larger trees is probably due to their greater proportional contribution to local pollen clouds. Individual tree outcrossing rates ranged from 22 to 100% and the population outcrossing rates from 66 to 78%. Missed alleles due to bulking and the estimation method used both cause a downward bias in outcrossing rates, so that these estimates are probably lower than the actual outcrossing rates. Nevertheless, the trends we observed are not affected by systematic biases of estimation.