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Genetics. 1998 Oct;150(2):863-72.

Speciation and domestication in maize and its wild relatives: evidence from the globulin-1 gene.

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  • 1Department of Plant Sciences and Center for Theoretical and Applied Genetics, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903, USA.


The grass genus Zea contains the domesticate maize and several wild taxa indigenous to Central and South America. Here we study the genetic consequences of speciation and domestication in this group by sampling DNA sequences from four taxa-maize (Zea mays ssp. mays), its wild progenitor (Z. mays ssp. parviglumis), a more distant species within the genus (Z. luxurians), and a representative of the sister genus (Tripsacum dactyloides). We sampled a total of 26 sequences from the glb1 locus, which encodes a nonessential seed storage protein. Within the Zea taxa sampled, the progenitor to maize contains the most sequence diversity. Maize contains 60% of the level of genetic diversity of its progenitor, and Z. luxurians contains even less diversity (32% of the level of diversity of Z. mays ssp. parviglumis). Sequence variation within the glb1 locus is consistent with neutral evolution in all four taxa. The glb1 data were combined with adh1 data from a previous study to make inferences about the population genetic histories of these taxa. Comparisons of sequence data between the two morphologically similar wild Zea taxa indicate that the species diverged approximately 700, 000 years ago from a common ancestor of intermediate size to their present populations. Conversely, the domestication of maize was a recent event that could have been based on a very small number of founding individuals. Maize retained a substantial proportion of the genetic variation of its progenitor through this founder event, but diverged rapidly in morphology.

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