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Ann Bot. 2007 Nov;100(5):925-40. Epub 2007 Aug 31.

Domestication of plants in the Americas: insights from Mendelian and molecular genetics.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, The University of Reading, Reading, UK.



Plant domestication occurred independently in four different regions of the Americas. In general, different species were domesticated in each area, though a few species were domesticated independently in more than one area. The changes resulting from human selection conform to the familiar domestication syndrome, though different traits making up this syndrome, for example loss of dispersal, are achieved by different routes in crops belonging to different families.


Understanding of the genetic control of elements of the domestication syndrome is improving as a result of the development of saturated linkage maps for major crops, identification and mapping of quantitative trait loci, cloning and sequencing of genes or parts of genes, and discoveries of widespread orthologies in genes and linkage groups within and between families. As the modes of action of the genes involved in domestication and the metabolic pathways leading to particular phenotypes become better understood, it should be possible to determine whether similar phenotypes have similar underlying genetic controls, or whether human selection in genetically related but independently domesticated taxa has fixed different mutants with similar phenotypic effects.


Such studies will permit more critical analysis of possible examples of multiple domestications and of the origin(s) and spread of distinctive variants within crops. They also offer the possibility of improving existing crops, not only major food staples but also minor crops that are potential export crops for developing countries or alternative crops for marginal areas.

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