Evolutionary Metabolomics Reveals Domestication-Associated Changes in Tetraploid Wheat Kernels

Mol Biol Evol. 2016 Jul;33(7):1740-53. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msw050. Epub 2016 Apr 5.


Domestication and breeding have influenced the genetic structure of plant populations due to selection for adaptation from natural habitats to agro-ecosystems. Here, we investigate the effects of selection on the contents of 51 primary kernel metabolites and their relationships in three Triticum turgidum L. subspecies (i.e., wild emmer, emmer, durum wheat) that represent the major steps of tetraploid wheat domestication. We present a methodological pipeline to identify the signature of selection for molecular phenotypic traits (e.g., metabolites and transcripts). Following the approach, we show that a reduction in unsaturated fatty acids was associated with selection during domestication of emmer (primary domestication). We also show that changes in the amino acid content due to selection mark the domestication of durum wheat (secondary domestication). These effects were found to be partially independent of the associations that unsaturated fatty acids and amino acids have with other domestication-related kernel traits. Changes in contents of metabolites were also highlighted by alterations in the metabolic correlation networks, indicating wide metabolic restructuring due to domestication. Finally, evidence is provided that wild and exotic germplasm can have a relevant role for improvement of wheat quality and nutritional traits.

Keywords: QST; domestication; metabolomics.; population genomics; wheat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • Chromosome Mapping / methods
  • Chromosomes, Plant
  • Crops, Agricultural / genetics
  • Crops, Agricultural / metabolism
  • Domestication
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Phenotype
  • Plant Breeding
  • Quantitative Trait Loci
  • Seeds / genetics
  • Seeds / metabolism
  • Tetraploidy
  • Triticum / genetics*
  • Triticum / metabolism*

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.12s8s