skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on March 25, 2023

Title: Convergent selection of a WD40 protein that enhances grain yield in maize and rice
INTRODUCTION During the independent process of cereal evolution, many trait shifts appear to have been under convergent selection to meet the specific needs of humans. Identification of convergently selected genes across cereals could help to clarify the evolution of crop species and to accelerate breeding programs. In the past several decades, researchers have debated whether convergent phenotypic selection in distinct lineages is driven by conserved molecular changes or by diverse molecular pathways. Two of the most economically important crops, maize and rice, display some conserved phenotypic shifts—including loss of seed dispersal, decreased seed dormancy, and increased grain number during evolution—even though they experienced independent selection. Hence, maize and rice can serve as an excellent system for understanding the extent of convergent selection among cereals. RATIONALE Despite the identification of a few convergently selected genes, our understanding of the extent of molecular convergence on a genome-wide scale between maize and rice is very limited. To learn how often selection acts on orthologous genes, we investigated the functions and molecular evolution of the grain yield quantitative trait locus KRN2 in maize and its rice ortholog OsKRN2 . We also identified convergently selected genes on a genome-wide scale in maize and rice, using more » two large datasets. RESULTS We identified a selected gene, KRN2 ( kernel row number2 ), that differs between domesticated maize and its wild ancestor, teosinte. This gene underlies a major quantitative trait locus for kernel row number in maize. Selection in the noncoding upstream regions resulted in a reduction of KRN2 expression and an increased grain number through an increase in kernel rows. The rice ortholog, OsKRN2 , also underwent selection and negatively regulates grain number via control of secondary panicle branches. These orthologs encode WD40 proteins and function synergistically with a gene of unknown function, DUF1644, which suggests that a conserved protein interaction controls grain number in maize and rice. Field tests show that knockout of KRN2 in maize or OsKRN2 in rice increased grain yield by ~10% and ~8%, respectively, with no apparent trade-off in other agronomic traits. This suggests potential applications of KRN2 and its orthologs for crop improvement. On a genome-wide scale, we identified a set of 490 orthologous genes that underwent convergent selection during maize and rice evolution, including KRN2/OsKRN2 . We found that the convergently selected orthologous genes appear to be significantly enriched in two specific pathways in both maize and rice: starch and sucrose metabolism, and biosynthesis of cofactors. A deep analysis of convergently selected genes in the starch metabolic pathway indicates that the degree of genetic convergence via convergent selection is related to the conservation and complexity of the gene network for a given selection. CONCLUSION Our findings show that common phenotypic shifts during maize and rice evolution acting on conserved genes are driven at least in part by convergent selection, which in maize and rice likely occurred both during and after domestication. We provide evolutionary and functional evidence on the convergent selection of KRN2/OsKRN2 for grain number between maize and rice. We further found that a complete loss-of-function allele of KRN2/OsKRN2 increased grain yield without an apparent negative impact on other agronomic traits. Exploring the role of KRN2/OsKRN2 and other convergently selected genes across the cereals could provide new opportunities to enhance the production of other global crops. Shared selected orthologous genes in maize and rice for convergent phenotypic shifts during domestication and improvement. By comparing 3163 selected genes in maize and 18,755 selected genes in rice, we identified 490 orthologous gene pairs, including KRN2 and its rice ortholog OsKRN2 , as having been convergently selected. Knockout of KRN2 in maize or OsKRN2 in rice increased grain yield by increasing kernel rows and secondary panicle branches, respectively. « less
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; more » ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; « less
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Maize ear size and kernel number differ among lines, however, little is known about the molecular basis of ear length and its impact on kernel number. Here, we characterize a quantitative trait locus,qEL7, to identify a maize gene controlling ear length, flower number and fertility.qEL7encodes 1-aminocyclopropane-1- carboxylate oxidase2 (ACO2), a gene that functions in the final step of ethylene biosynthesis and is expressed in specific domains in developing inflorescences. Confirmation ofqEL7by gene editing ofZmACO2leads to a reduction in ethylene production in developing ears, and promotes meristem and flower development, resulting in a ~13.4% increase in grain yield per ear in hybrids lines. Our findings suggest that ethylene serves as a key signal in inflorescence development, affecting spikelet number, floral fertility, ear length and kernel number, and also provide a tool to improve grain productivity by optimizing ethylene levels in maize or in other cereals.

  2. Improving drought resistance in crops is imperative under the prevailing erratic rainfall patterns. Drought affects the growth and yield of most modern rice varieties. Recent breeding efforts aim to incorporate drought resistance traits in rice varieties that can be suitable under alternative irrigation schemes, such as in a (semi)aerobic system, as row (furrow-irrigated) rice. The identification of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) controlling grain yield, the most important trait with high selection efficiency, can lead to the identification of markers to facilitate marker-assisted breeding of drought-resistant rice. Here, we report grain yield QTLs under greenhouse drought using an F2:3 population derived from Cocodrie (drought sensitive) × Nagina 22 (N22) (drought tolerant). Eight QTLs were identified for yield traits under drought. Grain yield QTL under drought on chromosome 1 (phenotypic variance explained (PVE) = 11.15%) co-localized with the only QTL for panicle number (PVE = 37.7%). The drought-tolerant parent N22 contributed the favorable alleles for all QTLs except qGN3.2 and qGN5.1 for grain number per panicle. Stress-responsive transcription factors, such as ethylene response factor, WD40 domain protein, zinc finger protein, and genes involved in lipid/sugar metabolism were linked to the QTLs, suggesting their possible role in drought tolerance mechanism of N22 inmore »the background of Cocodrie, contributing to higher yield under drought.« less
  3. Microbes (bacteria, yeasts, molds), in addition to plants and animals, were domesticated for their roles in food preservation, nutrition and flavor. Aspergillus oryzae is a domesticated filamentous fungal species traditionally used during fermentation of Asian foods and beverage, such as sake, soy sauce, and miso. To date, little is known about the extent of genome and phenotypic variation of A. oryzae isolates from different clades. Here, we used long-read Oxford Nanopore and short-read Illumina sequencing to produce a highly accurate and contiguous genome assemble of A. oryzae 14160, an industrial strain from China. To understand the relationship of this isolate, we performed phylogenetic analysis with 90 A. oryzae isolates and 1 isolate of the A. oryzae progenitor, Aspergillus flavus . This analysis showed that A. oryzae 14160 is a member of clade A, in comparison to the RIB 40 type strain, which is a member of clade F. To explore genome variation between isolates from distinct A. oryzae clades, we compared the A. oryzae 14160 genome with the complete RIB 40 genome. Our results provide evidence of independent evolution of the alpha-amylase gene duplication, which is one of the major adaptive mutations resulting from domestication. Synteny analysis revealed that bothmore »genomes have three copies of the alpha-amylase gene, but only one copy on chromosome 2 was conserved. While the RIB 40 genome had additional copies of the alpha-amylase gene on chromosomes III, and V, 14160 had a second copy on chromosome II and an third copy on chromosome VI. Additionally, we identified hundreds of lineage specific genes, and putative high impact mutations in genes involved in secondary metabolism, including several of the core biosynthetic genes. Finally, to examine the functional effects of genome variation between strains, we measured amylase activity, proteolytic activity, and growth rate on several different substrates. RIB 40 produced significantly higher levels of amylase compared to 14160 when grown on rice and starch. Accordingly, RIB 40 grew faster on rice, while 14160 grew faster on soy. Taken together, our analyses reveal substantial genome and phenotypic variation within A. oryzae .« less
  4. Alba, Mar (Ed.)
    Abstract Adaptive radiations are characterised by the diversification and ecological differentiation of species, and replicated cases of this process provide natural experiments for understanding the repeatability and pace of molecular evolution. During adaptive radiation, genes related to ecological specialisation may be subject to recurrent positive directional selection. However, it is not clear to what extent patterns of lineage-specific ecological specialisation (including phenotypic convergence) are correlated with shared signatures of molecular evolution. To test this, we sequenced whole exomes from a phylogenetically dispersed sample of 38 murine rodent species, a group characterised by multiple, nested adaptive radiations comprising extensive ecological and phenotypic diversity. We found that genes associated with immunity, reproduction, diet, digestion and taste have been subject to pervasive positive selection during the diversification of murine rodents. We also found a significant correlation between genome-wide positive selection and dietary specialisation, with a higher proportion of positively selected codon sites in derived dietary forms (i.e. carnivores and herbivores) than in ancestral forms (i.e. omnivores). Despite striking convergent evolution of skull morphology and dentition in two distantly related worm-eating specialists, we did not detect more genes with shared signatures of positive or relaxed selection than in a non-convergent species comparison. While amore »small number of the genes we detected can be incidentally linked to craniofacial morphology or diet, protein-coding regions are unlikely to be the primary genetic basis of this complex convergent phenotype. Our results suggest a link between positive selection and derived ecological phenotypes, and highlight specific genes and general functional categories that may have played an integral role in the extensive and rapid diversification of murine rodents.« less
  5. Inferring phenotypic outcomes from genomic features is both a promise and challenge for systems biology. Using gene expression data to predict phenotypic outcomes, and functionally validating the genes with predictive powers are two challenges we address in this study. We applied an evolutionarily informed machine learning approach to predict phenotypes based on transcriptome responses shared both within and across species. Specifically, we exploited the phenotypic diversity in nitrogen use efficiency and evolutionarily conserved transcriptome responses to nitrogen treatments across Arabidopsis accessions and maize varieties. We demonstrate that using evolutionarily conserved nitrogen responsive genes is a biologically principled approach to reduce the feature dimensionality in machine learning that ultimately improved the predictive power of our gene-to-trait models. Further, we functionally validated seven candidate transcription factors with predictive power for NUE outcomes in Arabidopsis and one in maize. Moreover, application of our evolutionarily informed pipeline to other species including rice and mice models underscores its potential to uncover genes affecting any physiological or clinical traits of interest across biology, agriculture, or medicine.