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Open Access Research article

On the genome constitution and evolution of intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium: Poaceae, Triticeae)

Václav Mahelka1*, David Kopecký2 and Ladislava Paštová1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Zámek 1, CZ-25243, Průhonice, Czech Republic

2 Centre of the Region Haná for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research, Institute of Experimental Botany, Sokolovská 6, CZ-77200, Olomouc, Czech Republic

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:127  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-127

Published: 18 May 2011

Abstract

Background

The wheat tribe Triticeae (Poaceae) is a diverse group of grasses representing a textbook example of reticulate evolution. Apart from globally important grain crops, there are also wild grasses which are of great practical value. Allohexaploid intermediate wheatgrass, Thinopyrum intermedium (2n = 6x = 42), possesses many desirable agronomic traits that make it an invaluable source of genetic material useful in wheat improvement. Although the identification of its genomic components has been the object of considerable investigation, the complete genomic constitution and its potential variability are still being unravelled. To identify the genomic constitution of this allohexaploid, four accessions of intermediate wheatgrass from its native area were analysed by sequencing of chloroplast trnL-F and partial nuclear GBSSI, and genomic in situ hybridization.

Results

The results confirmed the allopolyploid origin of Thinopyrum intermedium and revealed new aspects in its genomic composition. Genomic heterogeneity suggests a more complex origin of the species than would be expected if it originated through allohexaploidy alone. While Pseudoroegneria is the most probable maternal parent of the accessions analysed, nuclear GBSSI sequences suggested the contribution of distinct lineages corresponding to the following present-day genera: Pseudoroegneria, Dasypyrum, Taeniatherum, Aegilops and Thinopyrum. Two subgenomes of the hexaploid have most probably been contributed by Pseudoroegneria and Dasypyrum, but the identity of the third subgenome remains unresolved satisfactorily. Possibly it is of hybridogenous origin, with contributions from Thinopyrum and Aegilops. Surprising diversity of GBSSI copies corresponding to a Dasypyrum-like progenitor indicates either multiple contributions from different sources close to Dasypyrum and maintenance of divergent copies or the presence of divergent paralogs, or a combination of both. Taeniatherum-like GBSSI copies are most probably pseudogenic, and the mode of their acquisition by Th. intermedium remains unclear.

Conclusions

Hybridization has played a key role in the evolution of the Triticeae. Transfer of genetic material via extensive interspecific hybridization and/or introgression could have enriched the species' gene pools significantly. We have shown that the genomic heterogeneity of intermediate wheatgrass is higher than has been previously assumed, which is of particular concern to wheat breeders, who frequently use it as a source of desirable traits in wheat improvement.