Understanding the genetic basis of ecological and evolutionary processes

Plant Ecological Genetics

Our work aims at understanding the genetic basis of ecological and evolutionary processes. To achieve this goal, we combine the use of molecular methods with experiments in common gardens and in the field. Our main study organisms include the White and Red Campion (Silene latifolia and S. dioica), the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana, wild tomatoes (Solanum spp.) and grasses with their fungal symbionts.

Using the closely related species S. latifolia and S. dioica we investigate the ecological factors that contribute to reproductive isolation, the genomic composition of hybrids, and the ecological and evolutionary consequences of gene introgression. Of particular interest in this research is the role of sex chromosomes in adaptation and reproductive isolation.

With the model species Arabidopsis thaliana we investigate how plants adapt to extreme and changing environmental conditions in the Swiss Alps.


Recent Publications

  • Transmembrane transport and stress response genes play an important role in adaptation of Arabidopsis halleri to metalliferous soils
    Sailer, C; Babst-Kostecka, A; Fischer, MC; Zoller, S; Widmer, A; Vollenweider, P; Gugerli, F; Rellstab, C
    SCIENTIFIC REPORTS 8, Article Number: 16085, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-33938-2 OCT 31 2018
  • Genomic imprinting mediates dosage compensation in a young plant XY system
    Muyle, A; Zemp, N; Fruchard, C; Cegan, R; Vrana, J; Deschamps, C; Tavares, R; Hobza, R; Picard, F; Widmer, A; Marais, GAB
    NATURE PLANTS, 4 (9):677-680; 10.1038/s41477-018-0221-y SEP 2018
  • Has adaptation occurred in males and females since separate sexes evolved in the plant Silene latifolia
    Zemp, N (Zemp, Niklaus)[ 2,3 ] ; Widmer, A (Widmer, Alex)[ 2 ] ; Charlesworth, D (Charlesworth, Deborah)[ 1 ]
    PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES 285(1883), article Number: 20172824, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2824 JUL 25 2018
  • Trait differentiation and adaptation of plants along elevation gradients
    Halbritter, AH; Fior, S; Keller, I; Billeter, R; Edwards, PJ; Holderegger, R; Karrenberg, S; Pluess, AR; Widmer, A; Alexander, JM
    JOURNAL OF EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY, 31 (6):784-800; https://doi.org/10.1111/jeb.13262 JUN 2018
  • Teosinte in Europe - Searching for the Origin of a Novel Weed 
    Trtikova, Miluse; Lohn, Andre; Binimelis, Rosa; et al. 
    SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 7: 10.1038/s41598-017-01478-w MAY 8 2017 Article
  • Local adaptation (mostly) remains local: reassessing environmental associations of climate-related candidate SNPs in Arabidopsis halleri 
    Rellstab, C.; Fischer, M. C.; Zoller, S.; et al. 
    HEREDITY, 118 (2): 193-201 FEB 2017 Article (Details)
  • Differential adaptation drives ecological speciation in campions (Silene): evidence from a multi-site transplant experiment 
    Favre, Adrien; Widmer, Alex; Karrenberg, Sophie 
    NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 213 (3): 1487-1499 FEB 2017 Article (Details)
Alex Widmer

Prof. Dr. Alex Widmer
ETH Zurich
Institute of Integrative Biology
8092 Zurich

Tel: +41 (0)44 632 21 74

Research topics

  • Plant adaptation
  • Reproductive isolation
  • Genetic diversity
  • Sex chromosome evolution



  • Functional genomics
  • Ultra-high throughput sequencing
  • Reciprocal transplant experiments