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Forest Tree Genomics

In our group we analyze the adaptive response of forest species to changing environments, as well as the structure of conifers genome. In addition, we work on the development of tools for traceability studies in commercial species and their identification from wood samples

Grupo de investigación dependiente del

​Centro de Investigación Forestal (CIFOR)

The most recent studies show that the Mediterranean basin is one of the most vulnerable areas to the impact of global warming. Understanding how the trees in our forests adapt to changing environments is vital to ensuring their survival. Forest genomics allows to deepen this knowledge, but also to develop knowledge and tools that facilitate better protection of ecosystems and endangered species, and a more effective exploitation of resources.

The research lines we develop in our group focus on:

- Analysis of the adaptive responses of forest tree species to changing environments using the following approaches:

- Genomic to study their genetic material or DNA.

- Epigenetics to analyze DNA modifications that regulate how and the extent should the genes be expressed.

- Transcriptomics to determine the level of expression of the genes that are being expressed at any given time.

- Conifers genome structure, including the sequencing of reference genomes and their comparison with those already available for other conifers species

- Development of genotyping tools for timber traceability of forest trees of commercial interest that allow the identification of the species and / or the origin of the wood​


Adaptive response analysis using genomic and transcriptomic studies

The transcriptome is the total of all the readings (RNA) of the genes present in an organism, tissue or cell. Transcriptomic analyses can identify which genes are expressed differently in individuals subjected to different conditions. This information is essential to carry out the characterization of candidate genes that have still not been researched in conifers, or even genes that have still not been described int these species.

Our group conducts comparisons between transcriptomes to study the adaptive responses of forest species. We analyze the responses of trees to different types of stress such as the associated to drought, increased CO2 concentrations or susceptibility to certain pathogens.

- In maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) we have observed that the most drought tolerant individuals we have analyzed are pre-adapted to deal with the stress in a more efficient way. They have a set of genes related to the response to water stress that are being expressed constitutively. In the susceptible trees, however, these genes can be detected only in advanced stages of the stress response.

- Communication between roots and aerial part is a key point in the response to stresses such as water stress. To deepen this knowledge, we compare the transcriptomes of roots and needles of maritime pines grafted on rootstocks with different sensitivity to water stress.

- By combining genomic and transcriptomic analysis strategies and linkage mapping we have identified the regions of the eucalyptus genome (Eucalyptus globulus) regulating two limiting traits for its cultivation: rooting ability and tolerance to the Mycosphaerella leaf disease (MLD).​​​

Adaptive response analysis using epigenetic studies

Epigenetic modifications are marks on DNA that can be added or removed determining how and to what esttent genes must be expressed. Therefore, they are a primary factor in the regulation of the adaptability of living organisms.

Our research group carry out studies to know the levels of epigenetic variability of different forest species. We analyze DNA methylation, the expression and transport of microRNAs and the modification of histones in order to understand their evolution in different organs, throughout development and during responses to variations in their environment, as the case of drought.

Structure of the coniferous genome

The availability of the reference genome of a species (a reference sequence of the genome of that species) is a key point for its genomic and functional analysis, since facilitates the assembly and comparison of the sequences obtained in other studies.

Maritime pine (P. pinaster) genome is seven times larger than that of humans and contains a very high proportion of repeat regions. This represents a challenge for current sequencing strategies and platforms.

Our group co-leads the sequencing of the reference genome for maritime pine within the framework of an international consortium and participates in its functional analysis, running comparisons with other conifers.

Traceability of forest species

The illegally harvested timber trade is a global problem with significant environmental, economic and social implications. In many cases, to combat the commercialization of wood products from illegal logging, is necessary to determine the species and / or geographical origin of the wood supervised by the Authorities.

The Genomics of Forest Species group is part of the INIA Wood Species Identification Service. This service actively collaborates with thenSpanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the application of the European Timber Regulation (EUTR), by validating the declared species of the timber under investigation by the Authorities in their controls.

We are developing genotyping tools for the traceability or discrimination of a series of priority forest species, either because of their commercial interest or because they are threatened. We use genomic and transcriptomic approaches that allow us to: i) transfer information from nearby model species; ii) or generate the necessary knowledge when this transfer is not possible.


Coordinador de Grupo

  • María Teresa Cervera
    PINCOxSEQ: Estudio multidisciplinar de la respuesta de Pinus pinaster a sequía bajo distintas concentraciones de CO2 atmosférico
    2012 - 2012 | AGL2012-35175
  • María Teresa Cervera
    ProCoGen: Promoting a functional and comparative understanding of the conifer genome-implementing applied aspects for more productive and adapted forests (FP7- 289841).
    2012 - 2012 | FP7- 289841
  • María Teresa Cervera
    ProCoGen-DA: Promoting a functional and comparative understanding of the conifer genome- implementing applied aspects for more productive and adapted forests
    2015 - 2015 | 289841-DA
  • María Teresa Cervera
    pROMPTeR: Estudios del Efecto del portainjertos y del microbioma de la rizosfera en la respuesta de Pinus pinaster a la sequía empleando un enfoque multidisciplinar
    2016 - 2016 | AGL2015-66048-C2-1-R
  • María Teresa Cervera
    PErDURE: Estudio molecular de la respuesta del pino resinero (Pinus pinaster Ait.) a la sequía mediante el uso de injertos de genotipos con respuesta contrastada
    2019 - 2022 | RTI2018-098015-B-I00
  • Enrique Sáez Laguna
    Estudio molecular de la respuesta adaptativa de coníferas del género Pinus: Desarrollo y aplicación de herramientas básicas.
    Dirección: M.T. Cervera, M.A Guevara. | Universidad de Alcalá de Henares
  • Belkacem Zarouri
    Association study of phenology, yield and quality related traits in table grapes using SSR and SNP markers
    Dirección: J.A. Cabezas, M.T. de Andrés | Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
  • Marina De Miguel Vega
    Mapas genéticos de alta densidad de Pinus pinaster y análisis de QTLs que controlan respuesta a sequía
    Dirección: M.T Cervera, I. Aranda | Universidad de Alcalá de Henares

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