J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2007, Vol. 49 ›› Issue (6): 760-768.DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-7909.2007.00510.x

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The Puzzle of Rice Domestication

Tao Sang and Song Ge   

  • Published:2007-06-05


The origin of cultivated rice has puzzled plant biologists for decades. This is due, at least in part, to the complex evolutionary dynamics in rice cultivars and wild progenitors, particularly rapid adaptive differentiation and continuous gene flow within and between cultivated and wild rice. The long-standing controversy over single versus multiple and annual versus perennial origins of cultivated rice has been brought into shaper focus with the rapid accumulation of genetic and phylogenetic data. Molecular phylogenetic analyses revealed ancient genomic differentiation between rice cultivars, suggesting that they were domesticated from divergent wild populations. However, the recently cloned domestication gene sh4, responsible for the reduction of grain shattering from wild to cultivated rice, seems to have originated only once. Herein, we propose two models to reconcile apparently conflicting evidence regarding rice domestication. The snow-balling model considers a single origin of cultivated rice. In this model, a core of critical domestication alleles was fixed in the founding cultivar and then acted to increase the genetic diversity of cultivars through hybridization with wild populations. The combination model considers multiple origins of cultivated rice. In this model, initial cultivars were domesticated from divergent wild populations and fixed different sets of domestication alleles. Subsequent crosses among these semi-domesticated cultivars resulted in the fixation of a similar set of critical domestication alleles in the contemporary cultivars. In both models, introgression has played an important role in rice domestication. Recent and future introgression of beneficial genes from the wild gene pool through conventional and molecular breeding programs can be viewed as the continuation of domestication.

Key words: Oryza sativa, Oryza rufipogon, Oryza nivara, phylogeny, population genetics, QTL, shattering, sh4.

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