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Theor Appl Genet. 2012 Sep;125(5):897-907. doi: 10.1007/s00122-012-1881-z. Epub 2012 May 12.

Evidence of selection on fatty acid biosynthetic genes during the evolution of cultivated sunflower.

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Department of Plant Biology, University of Georgia, Miller Plant Sciences Bldg., Athens, GA 30602, USA.


The identification of genes underlying the phenotypic transitions that took place during crop evolution, as well as the genomic extent of resultant selective sweeps, is of great interest to both evolutionary biologists and applied plant scientists. In this study, we report the results of a molecular evolutionary analysis of 11 genes that underlie fatty acid biosynthesis and metabolism in wild and cultivated sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Seven of these 11 genes showed evidence of selection at the nucleotide level, with 1 (FAD7) having experienced selection prior to domestication, 2 (FAD2-3 and FAD3) having experienced selection during domestication, and 4 (FAB1, FAD2-1, FAD6, and FATB) having experienced selection during the subsequent period of improvement. Sequencing of a subset of these genes from an extended panel of sunflower cultivars revealed little additional variation, and an analysis of the genomic region surrounding one of these genes (FAD2-1) revealed the occurrence of an extensive selective sweep affecting a region spanning at least ca. 100 kb. Given that previous population genetic analyses have revealed a relatively rapid decay of linkage disequilibrium in sunflower, this finding indicates the occurrence of strong selection and a rapid sweep.

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