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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Jul 23;99(15):9650-5. Epub 2002 Jul 8.

Identifying genes of agronomic importance in maize by screening microsatellites for evidence of selection during domestication.

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Laboratory of Genetics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Crop species experienced strong selective pressure directed at genes controlling traits of agronomic importance during their domestication and subsequent episodes of selective breeding. Consequently, these genes are expected to exhibit the signature of selection. We screened 501 maize genes for the signature of selection using microsatellites or simple sequence repeats (SSRs). We applied the Ewens-Watterson test, which can reveal deviations from a neutral-equilibrium model, as well as two nonequilibrium tests that incorporate the domestication bottleneck. We investigated two classes of SSRs: those known to be polymorphic in maize (Class I) and those previously classified as monomorphic in maize (Class II). Fifteen SSRs exhibited some evidence for selection in maize and 10 showed evidence under stringent criteria. The genes containing nonneutral SSRs are candidates for agronomically important genes. Because demographic factors can bias our tests, further independent tests of these candidates are necessary. We applied such an additional test to one candidate, which encodes a MADS box transcriptional regulator, and confirmed that this gene experienced a selective sweep during maize domestication. Genomic scans for the signature of selection offer a means of identifying new genes of agronomic importance even when gene function and the phenotype of interest are unknown.

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