Exploring the evolution of terpene biosynthesis in cultivated Lavender populations (Lavandula spp.)

Mallory St. Clair

Authors:  Mallory St. Clair, Grant Godden, Pamela Soltis, Douglas Soltis, Mint Evolutionary Genomics Consortium

Faculty Mentor: Pamela Soltis

College: Florida Museum of Natural History


The mint family is a clade of 7,000+ species that produce an array of natural products through specialized metabolism, including mono- and sesquiterpenes. Knowledge of terpene pathways in mints is currently limited, as is our understanding of their evolution. To address these knowledge gaps, this project will investigate the genomic basis for terpene biosynthesis in cultivated lavender populations (Lavandula spp.), which display considerable variation in terpene types and abundances. As desirable traits are targeted and proliferate through lavender populations, strong positive selection for genes underlying these traits reduces genetic variation in neighboring genomic regions due to linkage, resulting in “selective sweeps” of target and non-target genes. As part of this study, we will explore selective sweeps to aid discovery of genes involved in terpene biosynthesis in a lavender diversity panel exhibiting novel and shared chemistry. We will map resequencing data from accessions of common cultivars to a new genome assembly for Lavandula and identify sweep signatures using the open-source software, Raised Accuracy in Sweep Detection (RAiSD). The sweep data will be characterized and correlated with cultivar-specific metabolite profiles, revealing candidate genes and biosynthetic gene clusters associated with specific metabolites and facilitating inferences of their chemical evolution.

Poster Pitch

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4 Responses
  1. Caroline Miller

    Hi Mallory,

    I think your research is very relevant as mint is certainly a large part of my life, in terms of fragrance and food! I also used a publically available software, MitoFinder, to extract mitochondrial genes of interest for my project. I think it’s so great how much research is possible due to these public resources. It will be interesting to see the future work from this study! Great job!

    1. Mallory St. Clair

      Hi Caroline,

      I agree, open source software is amazing, and it has truly unlocked innumerable research possibilities. Thank you for your kind words!

  2. David Julian

    Hi Mallory: That was an impressive explanation of a complex topic. I particularly liked how you walked the viewer through Fig 2. Well done!

    1. Mallory St. Clair

      Hi Dr. Julian,

      Thank you! That figure has been a very helpful tool every time I’ve had to explain my project.