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Genetics. 2002 Oct;162(2):941-50.

Molecular evidence on the origin and evolution of glutinous rice.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh 27695, USA.


Glutinous rice is a major type of cultivated rice with long-standing cultural importance in Asia. A mutation in an intron 1 splice donor site of the Waxy gene is responsible for the change in endosperm starch leading to the glutinous phenotype. Here we examine an allele genealogy of the Waxy locus to trace the evolutionary and geographical origins of this phenotype. On the basis of 105 glutinous and nonglutinous landraces from across Asia, we find evidence that the splice donor mutation has a single evolutionary origin and that it probably arose in Southeast Asia. Nucleotide diversity measures indicate that the origin of glutinous rice is associated with reduced genetic variation characteristic of selection at the Waxy locus; comparison with an unlinked locus, RGRC2, confirms that this pattern is specific to Waxy. In addition, we find that many nonglutinous varieties in Northeast Asia also carry the splice donor site mutation, suggesting that partial suppression of this mutation may have played an important role in the development of Northeast Asian nonglutinous rice. This study demonstrates the utility of phylogeographic approaches for understanding trait diversification in crops, and it contributes to growing evidence on the importance of modifier loci in the evolution of domestication traits.

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