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.
The domesticated crop maize and its wild progenitor, teosinte, have been used in numerous experiments to investigate the nature of divergent morphologies. This study examines a poorly understood region on the fifth chromosome of maize associated with a number of traits under selection during domestication, using a quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping population specific to the fifth chromosome. In contrast with other major domestication loci in maize where large-effect, highly pleiotropic, single genes are responsible for phenotypic effects, our study found the region on chromosome five fractionates into multiple-QTL regions, none with singularly large effects. The smallest 1.5-LOD support interval for a QTL contained 54 genes, one of which was a MADS MIKC(C) transcription factor, a family of proteins implicated in many developmental programs. We also used simulated trait data sets to investigate the power of our mapping population to identify QTL for which there is a single underlying causal gene. This analysis showed that while QTL for traits controlled by single genes can be accurately mapped, our population design can detect no more than ?4.5 QTL per trait even when there are 100 causal genes. Thus when a trait is controlled by ?5 genes in the simulated data, the number of detected QTL can represent a simplification of the underlying causative factors. Our results show how a QTL region with effects on several domestication traits may be due to multiple linked QTL of small effect as opposed to a single gene with large and pleiotropic effects.
The prolamin-box binding factor1 (pbf1) gene encodes a transcription factor that controls the expression of seed storage protein (zein) genes in maize. Prior studies show that pbf1 underwent selection during maize domestication although how it affected trait change during domestication is unknown. To assay how pbf1 affects phenotypic differences between maize and teosinte, we compared nearly isogenic lines (NILs) that differ for a maize versus teosinte allele of pbf1. Kernel weight for the teosinte NIL (162mg) is slightly but significantly greater than that for the maize NIL (156mg). RNAseq data for developing kernels show that the teosinte allele of pbf1 is expressed at about twice the level of the maize allele. However, RNA and protein assays showed no difference in zein profile between the two NILs. The lower expression for the maize pbf1 allele suggests that selection may have favored this change; however, how reduced pbf1 expression alters phenotype remains unknown. One possibility is that pbf1 regulates genes other than zeins and thereby is a domestication trait. The observed drop in seed weight associated with the maize allele of pbf1 is counterintuitive but could represent a negative pleiotropic effect of selection on some other aspect of kernel composition.
A reduction in number and an increase in size of inflorescences is a common aspect of plant domestication. When maize was domesticated from teosinte, the number and arrangement of ears changed dramatically. Teosinte has long lateral branches that bear multiple small ears at their nodes and tassels at their tips. Maize has much shorter lateral branches that are tipped by a single large ear with no additional ears at the branch nodes. To investigate the genetic basis of this difference in prolificacy (the number of ears on a plant), we performed a genome-wide QTL scan. A large effect QTL for prolificacy (prol1.1) was detected on the short arm of chromosome 1 in a location that has previously been shown to influence multiple domestication traits. We fine-mapped prol1.1 to a 2.7 kb "causative region" upstream of the grassy tillers1 (gt1) gene, which encodes a homeodomain leucine zipper transcription factor. Tissue in situ hybridizations reveal that the maize allele of prol1.1 is associated with up-regulation of gt1 expression in the nodal plexus. Given that maize does not initiate secondary ear buds, the expression of gt1 in the nodal plexus in maize may suppress their initiation. Population genetic analyses indicate positive selection on the maize allele of prol1.1, causing a partial sweep that fixed the maize allele throughout most of domesticated maize. This work shows how a subtle cis-regulatory change in tissue specific gene expression altered plant architecture in a way that improved the harvestability of maize.
• Hardened floral bracts and modifications to the inflorescence axis of grasses have been hypothesized to protect seeds from predation and/or aid seed dispersal, and have evolved multiple times independently within the family. Previous studies have demonstrated that mutations in the maize (Zea mays ssp. mays) gene teosinte glume architecture (tga1) underlie a reduction in hardened structures, yielding free fruits that are easy to harvest. It remains unclear whether the causative mutation(s) occurred in the cis-regulatory or protein-coding regions of tga1, and whether similar mutations in TGA1-like genes can explain variation in the dispersal unit in related grasses. • To address these questions TGA1-like genes were cloned and sequenced from a number of grasses and analyzed phylogenetically in relation to morphology; protein expression was investigated by immunolocalization. • TGA1-like proteins were expressed throughout the spikelet in the early development of all grasses, and throughout the flower of the grass relative Joinvillea. Later in development, expression patterns differed between Tripsacum dactyloides, maize and teosinte (Z. mays ssp. parviglumis). • These results suggest an ancestral role for TGA1-like genes in early spikelet development, but do not support the hypothesis that TGA1-like genes have been repeatedly modified to affect glume and inflorescence axis diversification.
The shape of a plant is largely determined by regulation of lateral branching. Branching architecture can vary widely in response to both genotype and environment, suggesting regulation by a complex interaction of autonomous genetic factors and external signals. Tillers, branches initiated at the base of grass plants, are suppressed in response to shade conditions. This suppression of tiller and lateral branch growth is an important trait selected by early agriculturalists during maize domestication and crop improvement. To understand how plants integrate external environmental cues with endogenous signals to control their architecture, we have begun a functional characterization of the maize mutant grassy tillers1 (gt1). We isolated the gt1 gene using positional cloning and found that it encodes a class I homeodomain leucine zipper gene that promotes lateral bud dormancy and suppresses elongation of lateral ear branches. The gt1 expression is induced by shading and is dependent on the activity of teosinte branched1 (tb1), a major domestication locus controlling tillering and lateral branching. Interestingly, like tb1, gt1 maps to a quantitative trait locus that regulates tillering and lateral branching in maize and shows evidence of selection during maize domestication. Branching and shade avoidance are both of critical agronomic importance, but little is known about how these processes are integrated. Our results indicate that gt1 mediates the reduced branching associated with the shade avoidance response in the grasses. Furthermore, selection at the gt1 locus suggests that it was involved in improving plant architecture during the domestication of maize.
Genetic diversity created by transposable elements is an important source of functional variation upon which selection acts during evolution. Transposable elements are associated with adaptation to temperate climates in Drosophila, a SINE element is associated with the domestication of small dog breeds from the gray wolf and there is evidence that transposable elements were targets of selection during human evolution. Although the list of examples of transposable elements associated with host gene function continues to grow, proof that transposable elements are causative and not just correlated with functional variation is limited. Here we show that a transposable element (Hopscotch) inserted in a regulatory region of the maize domestication gene, teosinte branched1 (tb1), acts as an enhancer of gene expression and partially explains the increased apical dominance in maize compared to its progenitor, teosinte. Molecular dating indicates that the Hopscotch insertion predates maize domestication by at least 10,000 years, indicating that selection acted on standing variation rather than new mutation.
Quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping is a valuable tool for studying the genetic architecture of trait variation. Despite the large number of QTL studies reported in the literature, the identified QTL are rarely mapped to the underlying genes and it is usually unclear whether a QTL corresponds to one or multiple linked genes. Similarly, when QTL for several traits colocalize, it is usually unclear whether this is due to the pleiotropic action of a single gene or multiple linked genes, each affecting one trait. The domestication gene teosinte branched1 (tb1) was previously identified as a major domestication QTL with large effects on the differences in plant and ear architecture between maize and teosinte. Here we present the results of two experiments that were performed to determine whether the single gene tb1 explains all trait variation for its genomic region or whether the domestication QTL at tb1 fractionates into multiple linked QTL. For traits measuring plant architecture, we detected only one QTL per trait and these QTL all mapped to tb1. These results indicate that tb1 is the sole gene for plant architecture traits that segregates in our QTL mapping populations. For most traits related to ear morphology, we detected multiple QTL per trait in the tb1 genomic region, including a large effect QTL at tb1 itself plus one or two additional linked QTL. tb1 is epistatic to two of these additional QTL for ear traits. Overall, these results provide examples for both a major QTL that maps to a single gene, as well as a case in which a QTL fractionates into multiple linked QTL.
The last two decades have seen important advances in our knowledge of maize domestication, thanks in part to the contributions of genetic data. Genetic studies have provided firm evidence that maize was domesticated from Balsas teosinte (Zea mays subspecies parviglumis), a wild relative that is endemic to the mid- to lowland regions of southwestern Mexico. An interesting paradox remains, however: Maize cultivars that are most closely related to Balsas teosinte are found mainly in the Mexican highlands where subspecies parviglumis does not grow. Genetic data thus point to primary diffusion of domesticated maize from the highlands rather than from the region of initial domestication. Recent archeological evidence for early lowland cultivation has been consistent with the genetics of domestication, leaving the issue of the ancestral position of highland maize unresolved. We used a new SNP dataset scored in a large number of accessions of both teosinte and maize to take a second look at the geography of the earliest cultivated maize. We found that gene flow between maize and its wild relatives meaningfully impacts our inference of geographic origins. By analyzing differentiation from inferred ancestral gene frequencies, we obtained results that are fully consistent with current ecological, archeological, and genetic data concerning the geography of early maize cultivation.
MADS-box genes encode transcription factors that are key regulators of plant inflorescence and flower development. We examined DNA sequence variation in 32 maize MADS-box genes and 32 randomly chosen maize loci and investigated their involvement in maize domestication and improvement. Using neutrality tests and a test based on coalescent simulation of a bottleneck model, we identified eight MADS-box genes as putative targets of the artificial selection associated with domestication. According to neutrality tests, one additional MADS-box gene appears to have been under selection during modern agricultural improvement of maize. For random loci, two genes were indicated as targets of selection during domestication and four additional genes were indicated to be candidate-selected loci for maize improvement. These results suggest that MADS-box genes were more frequent targets of selection during domestication than genes chosen at random from the genome.
Analysis of fine scale genetic structure in continuous populations of outcrossing plant species has traditionally been limited by the availability of sufficient markers. We used a set of 468 SNPs to characterize fine-scale genetic structure within and between two dense stands of the wild ancestor of maize, teosinte (Zea mays ssp. parviglumis). Our analyses confirmed that teosinte is highly outcrossing and showed little population structure over short distances. We found that the two populations were clearly genetically differentiated, although the actual level of differentiation was low. Spatial autocorrelation of relatedness was observed within both sites but was somewhat stronger in one of the populations. Using principal component analysis, we found evidence for significant local differentiation in the population with stronger spatial autocorrelation. This differentiation was associated with pronounced shifts in the first two principal components along the field. These shifts corresponded to changes in allele frequencies, potentially due to local topographical features. There was little evidence for selection at individual loci as a contributing factor to differentiation. Our results demonstrate that significant local differentiation may, but need not, co-occur with spatial autocorrelation of relatedness. The present study represents one of the most detailed analyses of local genetic structure to date and provides a benchmark for future studies dealing with fine scale patterns of genetic diversity in natural plant populations.
Large-scale screens of the maize genome identified 48 genes that show the putative signature of artificial selection during maize domestication or improvement. These selection-candidate genes may act as quantitative trait loci (QTL) that control the phenotypic differences between maize and its progenitor, teosinte. The selection-candidate genes appear to be located closer in the genome to domestication QTL than expected by chance.
Teosinte, the progenitor of maize, is restricted to tropical environments in Mexico and Central America. The pre-Columbian spread of maize from its center of origin in tropical Southern Mexico to the higher latitudes of the Americas required postdomestication selection for adaptation to longer day lengths. Flowering time of teosinte and tropical maize is delayed under long day lengths, whereas temperate maize evolved a reduced sensitivity to photoperiod. We measured flowering time of the maize nested association and diverse association mapping panels in the field under both short and long day lengths, and of a maize-teosinte mapping population under long day lengths. Flowering time in maize is a complex trait affected by many genes and the environment. Photoperiod response is one component of flowering time involving a subset of flowering time genes whose effects are strongly influenced by day length. Genome-wide association and targeted high-resolution linkage mapping identified ZmCCT, a homologue of the rice photoperiod response regulator Ghd7, as the most important gene affecting photoperiod response in maize. Under long day lengths ZmCCT alleles from diverse teosintes are consistently expressed at higher levels and confer later flowering than temperate maize alleles. Many maize inbred lines, including some adapted to tropical regions, carry ZmCCT alleles with no sensitivity to day length. Indigenous farmers of the Americas were remarkably successful at selecting on genetic variation at key genes affecting the photoperiod response to create maize varieties adapted to vastly diverse environments despite the hindrance of the geographic axis of the Americas and the complex genetic control of flowering time.
Domestication and plant breeding are ongoing 10,000-year-old evolutionary experiments that have radically altered wild species to meet human needs. Maize has undergone a particularly striking transformation. Researchers have sought for decades to identify the genes underlying maize evolution, but these efforts have been limited in scope. Here, we report a comprehensive assessment of the evolution of modern maize based on the genome-wide resequencing of 75 wild, landrace and improved maize lines. We find evidence of recovery of diversity after domestication, likely introgression from wild relatives, and evidence for stronger selection during domestication than improvement. We identify a number of genes with stronger signals of selection than those previously shown to underlie major morphological changes. Finally, through transcriptome-wide analysis of gene expression, we find evidence both consistent with removal of cis-acting variation during maize domestication and improvement and suggestive of modern breeding having increased dominance in expression while targeting highly expressed genes.
Whereas breeders have exploited diversity in maize for yield improvements, there has been limited progress in using beneficial alleles in undomesticated varieties. Characterizing standing variation in this complex genome has been challenging, with only a small fraction of it described to date. Using a population genetics scoring model, we identified 55 million SNPs in 103 lines across pre-domestication and domesticated Zea mays varieties, including a representative from the sister genus Tripsacum. We find that structural variations are pervasive in the Z. mays genome and are enriched at loci associated with important traits. By investigating the drivers of genome size variation, we find that the larger Tripsacum genome can be explained by transposable element abundance rather than an allopolyploid origin. In contrast, intraspecies genome size variation seems to be controlled by chromosomal knob content. There is tremendous overlap in key gene content in maize and Tripsacum, suggesting that adaptations from Tripsacum (for example, perennialism and frost and drought tolerance) can likely be integrated into maize.
A key step during crop domestication is the loss of seed shattering. Here, we show that seed shattering in sorghum is controlled by a single gene, Shattering1 (Sh1), which encodes a YABBY transcription factor. Domesticated sorghums harbor three different mutations at the Sh1 locus. Variants at regulatory sites in the promoter and intronic regions lead to a low level of expression, a 2.2-kb deletion causes a truncated transcript that lacks exons 2 and 3, and a GT-to-GG splice-site variant in the intron 4 results in removal of the exon 4. The distributions of these non-shattering haplotypes among sorghum landraces suggest three independent origins. The function of the rice ortholog (OsSh1) was subsequently validated with a shattering-resistant mutant, and two maize orthologs (ZmSh1-1 and ZmSh1-5.1+ZmSh1-5.2) were verified with a large mapping population. Our results indicate that Sh1 genes for seed shattering were under parallel selection during sorghum, rice and maize domestication.
Chromosomal inversions are thought to play a special role in local adaptation, through dramatic suppression of recombination, which favors the maintenance of locally adapted alleles. However, relatively few inversions have been characterized in population genomic data. On the basis of single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping across a large panel of Zea mays, we have identified an ?50-Mb region on the short arm of chromosome 1 where patterns of polymorphism are highly consistent with a polymorphic paracentric inversion that captures >700 genes. Comparison to other taxa in Zea and Tripsacum suggests that the derived, inverted state is present only in the wild Z. mays subspecies parviglumis and mexicana and is completely absent in domesticated maize. Patterns of polymorphism suggest that the inversion is ancient and geographically widespread in parviglumis. Cytological screens find little evidence for inversion loops, suggesting that inversion heterozygotes may suffer few crossover-induced fitness consequences. The inversion polymorphism shows evidence of adaptive evolution, including a strong altitudinal cline, a statistical association with environmental variables and phenotypic traits, and a skewed haplotype frequency spectrum for inverted alleles.
Despite numerous quantitative trait loci and association mapping studies, our understanding of the extent to which natural allelic series contribute to the variation for complex traits is limited. In this study, we investigate the occurrence of a natural allelic series for complex traits at the teosinte branched1 (tb1) gene in natural populations of teosinte (Zea mays ssp. parviglumis, Z. mays ssp. mexicana, and Z. diploperennis). Previously, tb1 was shown to confer large effects on both plant architecture and ear morphology between domesticated maize and teosinte; however, the effect of tb1 on trait variation in natural populations of teosinte has not been investigated. We compare the effects of nine teosinte alleles of tb1 that were introgressed into an isogenic maize inbred background. Our results provide evidence for a natural allelic series at tb1 for several complex morphological traits. The teosinte introgressions separate into three distinct phenotypic classes, which correspond to the taxonomic origin of the alleles. The effects of the three allelic classes also correspond to known morphological differences between the teosinte taxa. Our results suggest that tb1 contributed to the morphological diversification of teosinte taxa as well as to the domestication of maize.
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