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Plant Cell. 2009 Jul;21(7):1877-96. doi: 10.1105/tpc.109.068114. Epub 2009 Jul 2.

What has natural variation taught us about plant development, physiology, and adaptation?

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  • 1Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Departamento de Genética Molecular de Plantas, Cantoblanco 28049 Madrid, Spain.


Nearly 100 genes and functional polymorphisms underlying natural variation in plant development and physiology have been identified. In crop plants, these include genes involved in domestication traits, such as those related to plant architecture, fruit and seed structure and morphology, as well as yield and quality traits improved by subsequent crop breeding. In wild plants, comparable traits have been dissected mainly in Arabidopsis thaliana. In this review, we discuss the major contributions of the analysis of natural variation to our understanding of plant development and physiology, focusing in particular on the timing of germination and flowering, plant growth and morphology, primary metabolism, and mineral accumulation. Overall, functional polymorphisms appear in all types of genes and gene regions, and they may have multiple mutational causes. However, understanding this diversity in relation to adaptation and environmental variation is a challenge for which tools are now available.

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