Theoretical and Applied Genetics

, Volume 112, Issue 1, pp 58–65 | Cite as

Evidence of the domestication history of flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) from genetic diversity of the sad2 locus

  • Robin G. Allaby
  • Gregory W. Peterson
  • David Andrew Merriwether
  • Yong-Bi FuEmail author
Original Paper


A phylogenetic analysis was conducted on 34 alleles of 2.5 kb sized stearoyl-ACP desaturase II (sad2), obtained from 30 accessions of cultivated and pale flax (Linum spp.), to elucidate the history of flax domestication. The analysis supports a single domestication origin for extant cultivated flax. The phylogenetic evidence indicates that flax was first domesticated for oil, rather than fibre. The genetic diversity of the sad2 locus in cultivated flax is low when compared to that of the pale flax assayed. An absolute archaeological date could be applied to the synonymous substitution rate of sad2 in cultivated flax, yielding a high estimate of 1.60–1.71×10−7 substitutions/site/year. The occurrence of nonsynonymous substitutions at conserved positions of the third exon in alleles from cultivated flax suggests that the locus may have been subjected to an artificial selection pressure. The elevated synonymous substitution rate is also compatible with a population expansion of flax since domestication, followed by a population decline in historic times. These findings provide new insight into flax domestication and are significant for the continuous exploration of the flax germplasm for utilization.


Flax Crop domestication Network analysis Sequence variation Sad2 gene 



The authors would like to thank Drs. Axel Diederichsen and Bruce Coulman for their helpful comments on an early version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin G. Allaby
    • 1
  • Gregory W. Peterson
    • 2
  • David Andrew Merriwether
    • 1
  • Yong-Bi Fu
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyBinghamton University SUNYBinghamtonUSA
  2. 2.Plant Gene Resources of Canada, Saskatoon Research CentreAgriculture and Agri-Food CanadaSaskatoonCanada

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