We used a quantitative trait locus (QTL) approach to study the genetic basis of population differentiation in wild barley, Hordeum spontaneum. Several ecotypes are recognized in this model species, and population genetic studies and reciprocal transplant experiments have indicated the role of local adaptation in shaping population differences. We derived a mapping population from a cross between a coastal Mediterranean population and a steppe inland population from Israel and assessed F3 progeny fitness in the natural growing environments of the two parental populations. Dilution of the local gene pool, estimated as the proportion of native alleles at 96 marker loci in the recombinant lines, negatively affected fitness traits at both sites. QTLs for fitness traits tended to differ in the magnitude but not in the direction of their effects across sites, with beneficial alleles generally conferring a greater fitness advantage at their native site. Several QTLs showed fitness effects at one site only, but no opposite selection on individual QTLs was observed across the sites. In a common-garden experiment, we explored the hypothesis that the two populations have adapted to divergent nutrient availabilities. In the different nutrient environments of this experiment, but not under field conditions, fitness of the F3 progeny lines increased with the number of heterozygous marker loci. Comparison of QTL-effects that underlie genotype × nutrient interaction in the common-garden experiment and genotype × site interaction in the field suggested that population differentiation at the field sites may have been driven by divergent nutrient availabilities to a limited extent. Also in this experiment no QTLs were observed with opposite fitness effects in contrasting environments. Our data are consistent with the view that adaptive differentiation can be based on selection on multiple traits changing gradually along ecological gradients. This can occur without QTLs showing opposite fitness effects in the different environments, that is, in the absence of genetic trade-offs in performance between environments.
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Vol. 58 • No. 2