Chapter

Isozymes in Plant Biology

pp 46-72

Genetics of Plant Isozymes

  • Norman F. WeedenAffiliated withDepartment of Horticultural Sciences New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Cornell University
  • , Jonathan F. WendelAffiliated withDepartment of Botany Bessey Hall, Iowa State University

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Abstract

The ability to observe allelic variation at isozyme loci has revolutionized research in the fields of biochemical genetics, population genetics, and evolution. This variation, called allozymic polymorphism, has been used in plants to examine genetic processes at every stage of the life cycle and to ascertain genetic diversity in all major crops as well as many other species. Yet the potential for using allozymes as genetic markers was not immediately predicted when isozyme variability was initially described (Hunter and Marker, 1957; Markert and Moller, 1959). In fact, the extent and prevalence of allozyme polymorphism was a rather disconcerting surprise to evolutionary biologists. Classical evolutionary theory had predicted that the most “efficient” form of an enzyme should, over time, become predominant in isolated populations, with an occasional rare allele produced through mutation. The discovery in many populations of relatively high levels of polymorphism at isozyme loci has forced a major reconsideration of evolutionary theory (Kimura and Crow, 1964; Koehn et al., 1983; Kimura, 1983).