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J Hered. 1988 Jul-Aug;79(4):225-38.

The Wilhelmine E. Key 1987 invitational lecture. Genetic changes associated with the evolution of adaptedness in cultivated plants and their wild progenitors.

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  • 1Department of Genetics and Agronomy, University of California, Davis 95616.


The results of long-term studies of changes in adaptedness in a number of experimental populations of annual plants are summarized. Measurements made of quantitative traits showed that cumulative increases in reproductive capacity continued in these experimental populations for more than 50 generations. Highly significant allelic frequency changes also occurred for marker loci governing morphological variants, disease resistance, allozymes, and rDNA restriction fragments. Individual effects of the marker loci on quantitative traits were determined by extensive progeny testing of selfed families descended from single plants isolated from various generations of the experimental populations. Comparisons between homozygotes and heterozygotes of marker loci for quantitative trait expression revealed that all the marker loci studied had statistically significant additive effects on several to many quantitative traits; thus, each Mendelian locus, in addition to being a locus for its discrete descriptive effect, was also a locus for several quantitative traits. Consistent associations were found between superior reproductive capacity (e.g., larger numbers of kernels per plant) and the alleles of marker loci that increased in frequency over generations; no other quantitative traits measured were clearly and consistently associated with alleles that increased in frequency. Multilocus analyses based on canonical correlation, log linear, and cluster analysis procedures showed that highly significant associations developed in early generations among alleles of different loci in all the predominantly selfing populations studied. Dynamic changes featuring amalgamations of alleles into fewer clusters involving larger numbers of loci continued into the late generations. Patterns of ecogenetic differentiation that developed under predominant selfing were found to be fine-scaled overlays of environmental heterogeneity. The picture of evolutionary change that emerges is one in which the incorporation of increasing numbers of favorably interacting alleles into large synergistic complexes was accompanied in inbreeding populations by increases in adaptedness to the local environment and also by striking ecogenetic differentiation among local populations that occupy unlike habitats, including differentiation between cultivated plants and their wild progenitors. Selfing appears to promote the development and maintenance of adaptedness within populations and at the same time to facilitate the development of spatial differentiation by retarding gene flow between populations.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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