Molecular Genetics and Genomics

, Volume 274, Issue 2, pp 131–140

Diverse origins of waxy foxtail millet crops in East and Southeast Asia mediated by multiple transposable element insertions

Original Paper


The naturally occurring waxy and low-amylose variants of foxtail millet and other cereals, like rice and barley, originated in East and Southeast Asia under human selection for sticky foods. Mutations in the GBSS1 gene for granule-bound starch synthase 1 are known to be associated with these traits. We have analyzed the gene in foxtail millet, and found that, in this species, these traits were originated by multiple independent insertions of transposable elements and by subsequent secondary insertions into these elements or deletion of parts of the elements. The structural analysis of transposable elements inserted in the GBSS1 gene revealed that the non-waxy was converted to the low-amylose phenotype once, while shifts from non-waxy to waxy occurred three times, from low amylose to waxy once and from waxy to low amylose once. The present results, and the geographical distribution of different waxy molecular types, strongly suggest that these types originated independently and were dispersed into their current distribution areas. The patterns of GBSS1 variation revealed here suggest that foxtail millet may serve as a key to solving the mystery of the origin of waxy-type cereals in Asia. The GBSS1 gene in foxtail millet provides a new example of the evolution of a gene involved in the processes of domestication and its post-domestication fate under the influence of human selection.


Crop evolution Domestication Foxtail millet GBSS1 Transposable elements 

Supplementary material

438_2005_13_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (399 kb)
Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GenebankNational Institute of Agrobiological SciencesIbarakiJapan
  2. 2.Faculty of AgricultureOkayama UniversityOkayamaJapan
  3. 3.International Research Center for Japanese StudiesKyotoJapan

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