Molecular evolution of candidate genes for crop-related traits in sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.)


Evolutionary analyses aimed at detecting the molecular signature of selection during crop domestication and/or improvement can be used to identify genes or genomic regions of likely agronomic importance. Here, we describe the DNA sequence-based characterization of a pool of candidate genes for crop-related traits in sunflower. These genes, which were identified based on homology to genes of known effect in other study systems, were initially sequenced from a panel of improved lines. All genes that exhibited a paucity of sequence diversity, consistent with the possible effects of selection during the evolution of cultivated sunflower, were then sequenced from a panel of wild sunflower accessions an outgroup. These data enabled formal tests for the effects of selection in shaping sequence diversity at these loci. When selection was detected, we further sequenced these genes from a panel of primitive landraces, thereby allowing us to investigate the likely timing of selection (i.e., domestication vs. improvement). We ultimately identified seven genes that exhibited the signature of positive selection during either domestication or improvement. Genetic mapping of a subset of these genes revealed co-localization between candidates for genes involved in the determination of flowering time, seed germination, plant growth/development, and branching and QTL that were previously identified for these traits in cultivated x wild sunflower mapping populations. © 2014 Mandel et al.

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