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Cell. 2015 Jul 30;162(3):527-39. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.07.002.

Evolution of the Grain Dispersal System in Barley.

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National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, 305-8602 Tsukuba, Japan.
Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), Gatersleben, 06466 Stadt Seeland, Germany.
Archéorient CNRS UMR 5133, Université de Lyon II, Jalés, Berrias 07460, France.
Institute of Plant Biology, University of Zürich, 8008 Zürich, Switzerland.
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Gothenburg, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden.
University of Dundee, The James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA, UK.
ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, University of Adelaide, Waite Campus Glen Osmond, SA 5066, Australia.
Institute of Plant Science and Resources, Okayama University, 710-0046 Kurashiki, Japan.
National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, 305-8602 Tsukuba, Japan. Electronic address:


About 12,000 years ago in the Near East, humans began the transition from hunter-gathering to agriculture-based societies. Barley was a founder crop in this process, and the most important steps in its domestication were mutations in two adjacent, dominant, and complementary genes, through which grains were retained on the inflorescence at maturity, enabling effective harvesting. Independent recessive mutations in each of these genes caused cell wall thickening in a highly specific grain "disarticulation zone," converting the brittle floral axis (the rachis) of the wild-type into a tough, non-brittle form that promoted grain retention. By tracing the evolutionary history of allelic variation in both genes, we conclude that spatially and temporally independent selections of germplasm with a non-brittle rachis were made during the domestication of barley by farmers in the southern and northern regions of the Levant, actions that made a major contribution to the emergence of early agrarian societies.

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