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Plant Cell Environ. 2008 Jan;31(1):39-49. Epub 2007 Oct 1.

Allelic diversity associated with aridity gradient in wild emmer wheat populations.

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The Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa, Mt. Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel.


The association between allelic diversity and ecogeographical variables was studied in natural populations of wild emmer wheat [Triticum turgidum ssp. dicoccoides (Körn.) Thell.], the tetraploid progenitor of cultivated wheat. Patterns of allelic diversity in 54 microsatellite loci were analyzed in a collection of 145 wild emmer wheat accessions representing 25 populations that were sampled across naturally occurring aridity gradient in Israel and surrounding regions. The obtained results revealed that 56% of the genetic variation resided among accessions within populations, while only 44% of the variation resided between populations. An unweighted pair-group method analysis (UPGMA) tree constructed based on the microsatellite allelic diversity divided the 25 populations into six major groups. Several groups were comprised of populations that were collected in ecologically similar but geographically remote habitats. Furthermore, genetic differentiation between populations was independent of the geographical distances. An interesting evolutionary phenomenon is highlighted by the unimodal relationship between allelic diversity and annual rainfall (r = 0.74, P < 0.0002), indicating higher allelic diversity in populations originated from habitats with intermediate environmental stress (i.e. rainfall 350-550 mm year(-1)). These results show for the first time that the 'intermediate-disturbance hypothesis', explaining biological diversity at the ecosystem level, also dominates the genetic diversity within a single species, the lowest hierarchical element of the biological diversity.

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