What is it about?

Despite more than a century of genetic research, our understanding of the genetic basis of the astounding capacity of maize to adapt to new environments is in its infancy. Recent work in many crops has pointed to the potentially important role for introgression in underpinning adaptation, but clear examples of adaptive loci arising via introgression are lacking. Here, we elucidate the evolutionary history of a major metabolic quantitative trait locus (QTL) that we mapped down to a single gene, HPC1. Alterations in highland HPC1 are the result of a teosinte mexicana introgression in maize, leading to high phosphatidylcholine levels and improving fitness by accelerating flowering.

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Why is it important?

The article can help us understand how introgression of molecular traits from crop relatives has been conserved in modern crops by farmer selection of fitness traits such as flowering time and is an example of how we may be able to harness benefecial genetic variation of wild relatives to improve modern crops.


We enjoyed working with colleagues that are experts on different disciplines and this alllowed us to study this process at different temporal and physical scales. From the physical interaction of lipids with a transcription factor to the evolutionary history of an enzyme across thousands of years. To make this possible we performed both field experiments across elevation gradients and specialized mass spectrometry analysis.

Ruben Rellan-Alvarez
North Carolina State University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: An adaptive teosinte mexicana introgression modulates phosphatidylcholine levels and is associated with maize flowering time, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2100036119.
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