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Environ Biosafety Res. 2009 Oct-Dec;8(4):203-17. doi: 10.1051/ebr/2010001. Epub 2010 Aug 13.

Existence of vigorous lineages of crop-wild hybrids in Lettuce under field conditions.

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  • 1Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Plant to plant gene flow is a route of environmental exposure for GM plants specifically since crosses with wild relatives could lead to the formation of more vigorous hybrids, which could increase the rate of introgression and the environmental impact. Here, we test the first step in the process of potential transgene introgression: whether hybrid vigor can be inherited to the next generation, which could lead to fixation of altered, i.e., elevated, quantitative traits. The potential for a permanent elevated fitness was tested using individual autogamous progeny lineages of hybrids between the crop Lactuca sativa (Lettuce) and the wild species Lactuca serriola (Prickly Lettuce). We compared progeny from motherplants grown under either greenhouse or field conditions. The survival of young plants depended strongly on maternal environment. Furthermore, we observed that offspring reproductive fitness components were correlated with maternal fitness. Our study demonstrates that post-zygotic genotypic sorting at the young plants stage reduces the number of genotypes non-randomly, leading to inheritance of high levels of reproductive traits in the surviving hybrid lineages, compared to the pure wild relatives. Consequently, directional selection could lead to displacement of the pure wild relative and fixation of more vigorous genome segments originating from crops, stabilizing plant traits at elevated levels. Such information can be used to indentify segments which are less likely to introgress into wild relative populations as a target for transgene insertion.

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