Flax latitudinal adaptation at LuTFL1 altered architecture and promoted fiber production

Sci Rep. 2019 Jan 30;9(1):976. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-37086-5.


After domestication in the Near East around 10,000 years ago several founder crops, flax included, spread to European latitudes. On reaching northerly latitudes the architecture of domesticated flax became more suitable to fiber production over oil, with longer stems, smaller seeds and fewer axillary branches. Latitudinal adaptations in crops typically result in changes in flowering time, often involving the PEBP family of genes that also have the potential to influence plant architecture. Two PEBP family genes in the flax genome, LuTFL1 and LuTFL2, vary in wild and cultivated flax over latitudinal range with cultivated flax receiving LuTFL1 alleles from northerly wild flax populations. Compared to a background of population structure of flaxes over latitude, the LuTFL1 alleles display a level of differentiation that is consistent with selection for an allele III in the north. We demonstrate through heterologous expression in Arabidopsis thaliana that LuTFL1 is a functional homolog of TFL1 in A. thaliana capable of changing both flowering time and plant architecture. We conclude that specialized fiber flax types could have formed as a consequence of a natural adaptation of cultivated flax to higher latitudes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't