, Volume 92, Issue 1–2, pp 1–11 | Cite as

Genetic basis of the evolution of adaptedness in plants

  • R. W. Allard
Genetic Basis of Adaptation


Adaptedness is both complexly inherited and much affected by environment: consequently the genetic mechanisms that have led to improvements in adaptedness have been difficult to identify and to quantify. Recently it has been shown that ‘marker assisted dissection’ of adaptedness based on changes in the frequencies of discretely inherited alleles of loci of various kinds (e.g. allozyme, restriction fragment, microsatellite loci) is practicable. I will illustrate marker assisted analysis of the genetic basis of adaptedness with a sample of allozyme data from three species groups, two heavily selfing groups (two wild Avena species and barley) and one outcrossing species (corn, maize). The results lead to three main conclusions: (1) that the single most important genetic mechanism in all three species groups was the assembly of favorable epistatic combinations of alleles of different loci by means of recurring cycles of selection, intercrossing superior selects, and inbreeding to near homozygosity leading to stable superior multilocus genotypes adapted to specific habitats; (2) that exploitation of favorable interactions among alleles of the same locus played a significant role in tetraploid A. barbata and probably also in single-cross maize hybrids; (3) that purifying selection (elimination of deleterious alleles) played a small role in all three species groups. These results indicate that marker alleles provide applied breeders with effective ways to identify, track, and incorporate regions of chromosomes with favorable effects of adaptedness into improved cultivars.

Key words

adaptedness epistasis marker assisted dissection overdominance purifying selection 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. W. Allard
    • 1
  1. 1.University of California at DavisDavisU.S.A.

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