Interactions between genetics and environment shape Camelina seed oil composition

WashU affiliated authors: Jordan Brock, Trey Scott, Amy Yoojin Lee, Kenneth Olsen (Dept. of Biology)


BackgroundCamelina sativa (gold-of-pleasure) is a traditional European oilseed crop and emerging biofuel source with high levels of desirable fatty acids. A twentieth century germplasm bottleneck depleted genetic diversity in the crop, leading to recent interest in using wild relatives for crop improvement. However, little is known about seed oil content and genetic diversity in wild Camelina species.

Results: We used gas chromatography, environmental niche assessment, and genotyping-by-sequencing to assess seed fatty acid composition, environmental distributions, and population structure in C. sativa and four congeners, with a primary focus on the crop’s wild progenitor, C. microcarpa. Fatty acid composition differed significantly between Camelina species, which occur in largely non-overlapping environments. The crop progenitor comprises three genetic subpopulations with discrete fatty acid compositions. Environment, subpopulation, and population-by-environment interactions were all important predictors for seed oil in these wild populations. A complementary growth chamber experiment using C. sativa confirmed that growing conditions can dramatically affect both oil quantity and fatty acid composition in Camelina.

Conclusions: Genetics, environmental conditions, and genotype-by-environment interactions all contribute to fatty acid variation in Camelina species. These insights suggest careful breeding may overcome the unfavorable FA compositions in oilseed crops that are predicted with warming climates.

Citation: Brock, J.R., Scott, T., Lee, A.Y. et al. Interactions between genetics and environment shape Camelina seed oil composition. BMC Plant Biol 20, 423 (2020).