Jukka-Pekka Verta

Genetics of gene expression in conifers

Directors: John MacKay and Christian Landry 

1030, Avenue de la Medecine, Pavillon Charles-Eugene-Marchand, bureau 2225, Quebec QC G1V 0A6, Canada
+1 418-656 2131 poste 12421

I have moved! More information here .

Academic qualifications

  • MMK (BSc. Forest Ecology), University of Helsinki, Finland, 2008
  • MMM (MSc. Forest Genetics), University of Helsinki, Finland, 2008
  • PhD, Université Laval, Canada, 2014

Research fields

  • Genetical genomics
  • Ecological and evolutionary genomics

Research projects

Genetics of gene expression in white spruce - Understanding the genetic basis of variation in phenotypes is a central goal in genetics, and essential for deciphering the role of genetic variation on evolution. Gene expression, the first functional phenotype from static DNA information, can be studied to characterize the phenotypic effects of genetic variants in a high-throughput manner. Heritable variation in gene expression levels can be linked to genetic variants in the gene's locus itself, or alternatively in another loci affecting its expression (local/distant effects). These intra- and inter gene connections specify the networking between gene expression phenotypes and genetic variants. On the other hand, genetic variants can affect the expression of one, or both alleles of a focal locus (cis/trans effects). The mode of action of each effect allows us to gain insight into it's biological basis. These properties of gene expression networks both affect and mirror ongoing evolutionary processes in molecular, organismal and population scales in ways that are not yet fully understood. However, current approaches allow the genetic tracking of complex genomic phenotypes in only a few species, limiting the ecological and evolutionary contexts where the effects of genetic variation can be studied.

My current research is concentrated on developing and implementing a novel approach to measure heritable variation in gene expression, and to study the associated genetic factors and their interconnectedness in white spruce (Picea glauca). This approach, which is based on analyzing gene expression in the haploid meiotic tissue of conifer seeds, could open the door for the genetic analysis of expression variation in other gymnosperms, a group of ~600 plant species. My earlier experiments involved microarray analysis of segregating expression levels. I am presently concentrating on the dissection of expression variation to its local/distant and cis/trans components by using the white spruce megagametophyte system (Verta et al. 2013, see publications) in conjunction with RNA-seq. I am also studying how the tissue-specificity and dominance relationships of the underlying genetic variants affect their evolutionary paths.

Peer-reviewed publications

Verta JP, Landry CR & MacKay J. 2013: Are long-lived trees poised for evolutionary change? Single locus effects in the evolution of gene expression networks in spruce. Molecular Ecology 22(9):2369–2379 

Raherison ES, Rigault P, Caron S, Poulin PL, Boyle B, Verta JP, Giguère I, Bomal C, Bohlmann J & Mackay J. 2012: Transcriptome profiling in conifers and the PiceaGenExpress database show patterns of diversification within gene families and interspecific conservation in vascular gene expression, BMC Genomics 13(1):434 

Pre-print publications

Verta JP, Landry CR & MacKay J. 2014: The genetic landscape of transcriptional networks in a combined haploid/diploid plant system. bioRxiv 

Selected presentations

Verta J.-P., Landry C. & MacKay J. 2013: Genetic dissection of expression variation in white spruce, Forest Genetics 2013 (UBC), Whistler, Canada - Oral presentation

Verta J.-P., Landry C. & MacKay J. 2013: Genetic dissection of expression variation in white spruce, Conifer Genome Sequencing Summit (Umeå Plant Science Centre), Björkliden, Sweden - Oral presentation

Verta J.-P., Delvas N., Raherison E., Giguère I., Caron S., Bomal C., Bauce E., Landry C. & MacKay J. 2012: Transcriptome profiling studies in spruce trees reveals gene family evolution, expressional diversity and a novel insect resistance mechanism, SMBE2012 (Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution), Dublin, Ireland - Poster

Verta J.-P., Boyle B., Landry C. & MacKay J. 2011: Mendelian allelic expression phenotypes studied by haploid transcriptome analysis in a gymnosperm, Plant Genomes & Biotechnology: From genes to networks (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory), Cold Spring Harbor, NY, United States - Oral presentation

Verta J.-P., Carron S., Giguère I., Boyle B., Landry C. & MacKay J. 2011: Haploid transcriptome analysis reveals allelelic gene expression variants, co-expressed gene groups, and linkages between expression and copy number variation, IUFRO Tree Biotechnology (EMPRAPA), Arraial d'Ajuda, Brazil - Oral presentation 

Verta J.-P., Boyle B., Carron S., Giguère I., Poulin P.-L., Dallaire N., Bomal C. & MacKay J. 2009: Gene-expression profiling and screening of genomic polymorphisms in white spruce (Picea glauca) MFA phenotypes, IUFRO Tree Biotechnology (UBC), Whistler, Canada - Poster

Verta J.-P., Teeri T., Kärkkäinen K., Harju A. & Venäläinen M. 2008: Heartwood extractives - from phenotype to candidate genes, FuncFiber (UPC & Umeå University), Umeå, Sweden - Poster

Awards etc.

Étudiant-chercheurs étoiles  - FQRNT (Fonds de Recherche du Québec Nature et Technologies), 2013
Best oral presentation by a student or post-doc - IUFRO Tree Biotechnology, 2011 (EMPRAPA) Arraial d'Ajuda, Brazil
Student travel grant for IUFRO Tree Biotechnology, 2011 (EMPRAPA) Arraial d'Ajuda, Brazil
Scholarship for master thesis - Finnish Foundation for Forest Tree Breeding, 2008


Course assistant - Laboratory Course in Plant Molecular Biology, 2008 (Dept. of Applied Biology, University of Helsinki)


Spoken languages: Finnish (native), English (fluent), French (fluent), Swedish (basic)
Programming languages: R, Python


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