Genetic analysis of wheat domestication and evolution under domestication

J Exp Bot. 2011 Oct;62(14):5051-61. doi: 10.1093/jxb/err206. Epub 2011 Jul 21.


Wheat is undoubtedly one of the world's major food sources since the dawn of Near Eastern agriculture and up to the present day. Morphological, physiological, and genetic modifications involved in domestication and subsequent evolution under domestication were investigated in a tetraploid recombinant inbred line population, derived from a cross between durum wheat and its immediate progenitor wild emmer wheat. Experimental data were used to test previous assumptions regarding a protracted domestication process. The brittle rachis (Br) spike, thought to be a primary characteristic of domestication, was mapped to chromosome 2A as a single gene, suggesting, in light of previously reported Br loci (homoeologous group 3), a complex genetic model involved in spike brittleness. Twenty-seven quantitative trait loci (QTLs) conferring threshability and yield components (kernel size and number of kernels per spike) were mapped. The large number of QTLs detected in this and other studies suggests that following domestication, wheat evolutionary processes involved many genomic changes. The Br gene did not show either genetic (co-localization with QTLs) or phenotypic association with threshability or yield components, suggesting independence of the respective loci. It is argued here that changes in spike threshability and agronomic traits (e.g. yield and its components) are the outcome of plant evolution under domestication, rather than the result of a protracted domestication process. Revealing the genomic basis of wheat domestication and evolution under domestication, and clarifying their inter-relationships, will improve our understanding of wheat biology and contribute to further crop improvement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Chromosomes, Plant / genetics
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait Loci
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable
  • Triticum / genetics*
  • Triticum / physiology