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PLoS One. 2013 Oct 16;8(10):e75117. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075117. eCollection 2013.

DNA analysis of herbarium Specimens of the grass weed Alopecurus myosuroides reveals herbicide resistance pre-dated herbicides.

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INRA, UMR1347 Agroécologie, Dijon, France.


Acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACCase) alleles carrying one point mutation that confers resistance to herbicides have been identified in arable grass weed populations where resistance has evolved under the selective pressure of herbicides. In an effort to determine whether herbicide resistance evolves from newly arisen mutations or from standing genetic variation in weed populations, we used herbarium specimens of the grass weed Alopecurus myosuroides to seek mutant ACCase alleles carrying an isoleucine-to-leucine substitution at codon 1781 that endows herbicide resistance. These specimens had been collected between 1788 and 1975, i.e., prior to the commercial release of herbicides inhibiting ACCase. Among the 734 specimens investigated, 685 yielded DNA suitable for PCR. Genotyping the ACCase locus using the derived Cleaved Amplified Polymorphic Sequence (dCAPS) technique identified one heterozygous mutant specimen that had been collected in 1888. Occurrence of a mutant codon encoding a leucine residue at codon 1781 at the heterozygous state was confirmed in this specimen by sequencing, clearly demonstrating that resistance to herbicides can pre-date herbicides in weeds. We conclude that point mutations endowing resistance to herbicides without having associated deleterious pleiotropic effects can be present in weed populations as part of their standing genetic variation, in frequencies higher than the mutation frequency, thereby facilitating their subsequent selection by herbicide applications.

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