Genetic Study Sheds Light on Tea Crop Adaptation and Population Structure

Jenn Hoskins
2nd June, 2024

Genetic Study Sheds Light on Tea Crop Adaptation and Population Structure

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study, conducted in China, re-sequenced the genomes of 43 tea grey geometrid individuals from 13 regions and 12 individuals of its sibling species, Ectropis obliqua
  • Researchers identified 627,569 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the tea grey geometrid, revealing two distinct subpopulations: EGA in Zhejiang Province and EGB in southern and central China
  • The study found significant gene flow between the EGA subpopulation and Ectropis obliqua, suggesting genetic exchange that could impact adaptability and resistance to environmental stresses
Tea grey geometrid, Ectropis grisescens, is a notorious pest that significantly impacts tea crops by consuming leaves and shoots, leading to substantial losses in yield and quality. Despite its importance, research on this species has been limited due to a lack of comprehensive population genome information. A recent study conducted by Zhejiang University aims to address this gap by re-sequencing the genomes of 43 tea grey geometrid individuals from 13 different geographic regions and 12 individuals of its sibling species, Ectropis obliqua, from four sites in China[1]. The study identified 627,569 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from the whole-genome resequencing of the 43 tea grey geometrid individuals. SNPs are variations in a single nucleotide that occur at specific positions in the genome, and they are crucial for understanding genetic diversity within and between populations. The researchers discovered that the tea grey geometrid populations are divided into two distinct subpopulations, EGA and EGB. EGA is primarily found in Zhejiang Province, co-occurring with tea geometrid (EO), while EGB is distributed across southern and central China. This finding of subpopulation structure is significant as it provides insights into the genetic diversity and evolutionary history of the tea grey geometrid. The demographic history analysis showed fluctuations in population size over time, with stabilization following the cultivation of tea. This stabilization suggests a possible adaptation to the tea cultivation environment. Interestingly, the study also uncovered a significant migration event between the EGA subpopulation and EO. This indicates gene flow between the two species, which could have implications for their adaptability and resistance to environmental stresses. Moreover, genes such as P-glycoprotein and lactase were found to be under selection, suggesting metabolic adaptations of the tea grey geometrid to tea plants. These findings build on previous research into the tea plant genome, which has revealed the complex genetic landscape and evolutionary history of Camellia sinensis. Earlier studies have shown that the tea plant genome is rich in repetitive sequences and has undergone multiple whole-genome duplications, which have contributed to the amplification of genes involved in secondary metabolite production[2][3]. These metabolites, including catechins, theanine, and caffeine, are critical for tea quality and have been shaped by the plant's evolutionary history. The current study adds another layer to this understanding by highlighting how the tea grey geometrid has genetically adapted to the tea plant. The identification of genes under selection for metabolic adaptation provides a genetic basis for the pest's ability to thrive on tea plants, which could inform future pest management strategies. In summary, the study by Zhejiang University provides a comprehensive genomic variation atlas for the tea grey geometrid, revealing significant insights into its population structure, demographic history, and genetic adaptations. These findings not only enhance our understanding of the pest's biology but also offer valuable resources for developing targeted strategies to mitigate its impact on tea cultivation.

AgricultureGeneticsPlant Science


Main Study

1) Whole-genome resequencing of tea grey geometrid provides insights into their population structure and adaptation to tea crops

Published 1st June, 2024

Related Studies

2) Draft genome sequence of Camellia sinensis var. sinensis provides insights into the evolution of the tea genome and tea quality.

3) The Tea Tree Genome Provides Insights into Tea Flavor and Independent Evolution of Caffeine Biosynthesis.

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