Simon et al. 2024 New Phytologist

Genetic underpinnings of arthropod community distributions in Populus trichocarpa

Sandra J. Simon, Anna Furches,  Hari Chhetri,  Luke Evans,  Chanaka Roshan Abeyratne,  Piet Jones,  Gina Wimp,  David Macaya-Sanz,  Daniel Jacobson,  Timothy J. Tschaplinski,  Gerald A. Tuskan,  Stephen P. DiFazio
March 15, 2024, New Phytologist; DOI:10.1111/nph.19660


  • Community genetics seeks to understand the mechanisms by which natural genetic variation in heritable host phenotypes can encompass assemblages of organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and many animals including arthropods. Prior studies that focused on plant genotypes have been unable to identify genes controlling community composition, a necessary step to predict ecosystem structure and function as underlying genes shift within plant populations.
  • We surveyed arthropods within an association population of Populus trichocarpa in three common gardens to discover plant genes that contributed to arthropod community composition. We analyzed our surveys with traditional single-trait genome-wide association analysis (GWAS), multitrait GWAS, and functional networks built from a diverse set of plant phenotypes.
  • Plant genotype was influential in structuring arthropod community composition among several garden sites. Candidate genes important for higher level organization of arthropod communities had broadly applicable functions, such as terpenoid biosynthesis and production of dsRNA binding proteins and protein kinases, which may be capable of targeting multiple arthropod species.
  • We have demonstrated the ability to detect, in an uncontrolled environment, individual genes that are associated with the community assemblage of arthropods on a host plant, further enhancing our understanding of genetic mechanisms that impact ecosystem structure.


Simon SJ, Furches A, Chhetri H, Evans L, Abeyratne CR, Jones P, Wimp G, Macaya-Sanz D, Jacobson D, Tschaplinski TJ, Tuskan GA, DiFazio SP. (2024). Genetic Underpinnings of Arthropod Community Distributions in Populus trichocarpa. New Phytologist. DOI:10.1111/nph.19660