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Plant Cell. 2008 Nov;20(11):2931-45. doi: 10.1105/tpc.108.059808. Epub 2008 Nov 18.

A genomic scan for selection reveals candidates for genes involved in the evolution of cultivated sunflower (Helianthus annuus).

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Department of Plant Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA.


Genomic scans for selection are a useful tool for identifying genes underlying phenotypic transitions. In this article, we describe the results of a genome scan designed to identify candidates for genes targeted by selection during the evolution of cultivated sunflower. This work involved screening 492 loci derived from ESTs on a large panel of wild, primitive (i.e., landrace), and improved sunflower (Helianthus annuus) lines. This sampling strategy allowed us to identify candidates for selectively important genes and investigate the likely timing of selection. Thirty-six genes showed evidence of selection during either domestication or improvement based on multiple criteria, and a sequence-based test of selection on a subset of these loci confirmed this result. In view of what is known about the structure of linkage disequilibrium across the sunflower genome, these genes are themselves likely to have been targeted by selection, rather than being merely linked to the actual targets. While the selection candidates showed a broad range of putative functions, they were enriched for genes involved in amino acid synthesis and protein catabolism. Given that a similar pattern has been detected in maize (Zea mays), this finding suggests that selection on amino acid composition may be a general feature of the evolution of crop plants. In terms of genomic locations, the selection candidates were significantly clustered near quantitative trait loci (QTL) that contribute to phenotypic differences between wild and cultivated sunflower, and specific instances of QTL colocalization provide some clues as to the roles that these genes may have played during sunflower evolution.

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