Sunflower pan-genome analysis shows that hybridization altered gene content and disease resistance


Domesticated plants and animals often display dramatic responses to selection, but the origins of the genetic diversity underlying these responses remain poorly understood. Despite domestication and improvement bottlenecks, the cultivated sunflower remains highly variable genetically, possibly due to hybridization with wild relatives. To characterize genetic diversity in the sunflower and to quantify contributions from wild relatives, we sequenced 287 cultivated lines, 17 Native American landraces and 189 wild accessions representing 11 compatible wild species. Cultivar sequences failing to map to the sunflower reference were assembled de novo for each genotype to determine the gene repertoire, or ‘pan-genome’, of the cultivated sunflower. Assembled genes were then compared to the wild species to estimate origins. Results indicate that the cultivated sunflower pan-genome comprises 61,205 genes, of which 27% vary across genotypes. Approximately 10% of the cultivated sunflower pan-genome is derived through introgression from wild sunflower species, and 1.5% of genes originated solely through introgression. Gene ontology functional analyses further indicate that genes associated with biotic resistance are over-represented among introgressed regions, an observation consistent with breeding records. Analyses of allelic variation associated with downy mildew resistance provide an example in which such introgressions have contributed to resistance to a globally challenging disease.

Publication Title

Nature Plants