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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Molecular evolution of dimeric α-amylase inhibitor genes in wild emmer wheat and its ecological association

Ji-Rui Wang1, Yu-Ming Wei1, Xiang-Yu Long1, Ze-Hong Yan1, Eviatar Nevo2, Bernard R Baum3 and You-Liang Zheng14*

Author Affiliations

1 Triticeae Research Institute, Sichuan Agricultural University, Yaan, Sichuan 625014, China

2 Institute of Evolution, University of Haifa, Mt. Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel

3 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0C6, Canada

4 Key Laboratory of Crop Genetic Resources and Improvement in Southwest China, Ministry of Education, Sichuan Agricultural University, Yaan, Sichuan 625014, China

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:91  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-91

Published: 24 March 2008

Abstract

Background

α-Amylase inhibitors are attractive candidates for the control of seed weevils, as these insects are highly dependent on starch as an energy source. In this study, we aimed to reveal the structure and diversity of dimeric α-amylase inhibitor genes in wild emmer wheat from Israel and to elucidate the relationship between the emmer wheat genes and ecological factors using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. Another objective of this study was to find out whether there were any correlations between SNPs in functional protein-coding genes and the environment.

Results

The influence of ecological factors on the genetic structure of dimeric α-amylase inhibitor genes was evaluated by specific SNP markers. A total of 244 dimeric α-amylase inhibitor genes were obtained from 13 accessions in 10 populations. Seventy-five polymorphic positions and 74 haplotypes were defined by sequence analysis. Sixteen out of the 75 SNP markers were designed to detect SNP variations in wild emmer wheat accessions from different populations in Israel. The proportion of polymorphic loci P (5%), the expected heterozygosity He, and Shannon's information index in the 16 populations were 0.887, 0.404, and 0.589, respectively. The populations of wild emmer wheat showed great diversity in gene loci both between and within populations. Based on the SNP marker data, the genetic distance of pair-wise comparisons of the 16 populations displayed a sharp genetic differentiation over long geographic distances. The values of P, He, and Shannon's information index were negatively correlated with three climatic moisture factors, whereas the same values were positively correlated by Spearman rank correlation coefficients' analysis with some of the other ecological factors.

Conclusion

The populations of wild emmer wheat showed a wide range of diversity in dimeric α-amylase inhibitors, both between and within populations. We suggested that SNP markers are useful for the estimation of genetic diversity of functional genes in wild emmer wheat. These results show significant correlations between SNPs in the α-amylase inhibitor genes and ecological factors affecting diversity. Ecological factors, singly or in combination, explained a significant proportion of the variations in the SNPs, and the SNPs could be classified into several categories as ecogeographical predictors. It was suggested that the SNPs in the α-amylase inhibitor genes have been subjected to natural selection, and ecological factors had an important evolutionary influence on gene differentiation at specific loci.