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New Phytol. 2015 Apr;206(2):830-8. doi: 10.1111/nph.13255. Epub 2015 Jan 12.

Genome scans reveal candidate domestication and improvement genes in cultivated sunflower, as well as post-domestication introgression with wild relatives.

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Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, 3529-6270 University Blvd, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada.


The development of modern crops typically involves both selection and hybridization, but to date most studies have focused on the former. In the present study, we explore how both processes, and their interactions, have molded the genome of the cultivated sunflower (Helianthus annuus), a globally important oilseed. To identify genes targeted by selection during the domestication and improvement of sunflower, and to detect post-domestication hybridization with wild species, we analyzed transcriptome sequences of 80 genotypes, including wild, landrace, and modern lines of H. annuus, as well as two cross-compatible wild relatives, Helianthus argophyllus and Helianthus petiolaris. Outlier analyses identified 122 and 15 candidate genes associated with domestication and improvement, respectively. As in several previous studies, genes putatively involved in oil biosynthesis were the most extreme outliers. Additionally, several promising associations were observed with previously mapped quantitative trait loci (QTLs), such as branching. Admixture analyses revealed that all the modern cultivar genomes we examined contained one or more introgressions from wild populations, with every chromosome having evidence of introgression in at least one modern line. Cumulatively, introgressions cover c. 10% of the cultivated sunflower genome. Surprisingly, introgressions do not avoid candidate domestication genes, probably because of the reintroduction of branching.


breeding; domestication; genomics; introgression; sunflower (Helianthus spp.)

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