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PLoS Genet. 2014 Nov 6;10(11):e1004745. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004745. eCollection 2014 Nov.

The role of cis regulatory evolution in maize domestication.

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Laboratory of Genetics, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America.
Bioinformatics Facility, Institute of Biotechnology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States of America.


Gene expression differences between divergent lineages caused by modification of cis regulatory elements are thought to be important in evolution. We assayed genome-wide cis and trans regulatory differences between maize and its wild progenitor, teosinte, using deep RNA sequencing in F1 hybrid and parent inbred lines for three tissue types (ear, leaf and stem). Pervasive regulatory variation was observed with approximately 70% of ∼17,000 genes showing evidence of regulatory divergence between maize and teosinte. However, many fewer genes (1,079 genes) show consistent cis differences with all sampled maize and teosinte lines. For ∼70% of these 1,079 genes, the cis differences are specific to a single tissue. The number of genes with cis regulatory differences is greatest for ear tissue, which underwent a drastic transformation in form during domestication. As expected from the domestication bottleneck, maize possesses less cis regulatory variation than teosinte with this deficit greatest for genes showing maize-teosinte cis regulatory divergence, suggesting selection on cis regulatory differences during domestication. Consistent with selection on cis regulatory elements, genes with cis effects correlated strongly with genes under positive selection during maize domestication and improvement, while genes with trans regulatory effects did not. We observed a directional bias such that genes with cis differences showed higher expression of the maize allele more often than the teosinte allele, suggesting domestication favored up-regulation of gene expression. Finally, this work documents the cis and trans regulatory changes between maize and teosinte in over 17,000 genes for three tissues.

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