Genetic control of domestication traits in pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum L., Poaceae)
Quantitative trait loci (QTLs) controlling the morphological differences between pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum ssp. glaucum) and its wild ancestor (Pennisetum glaucum ssp. monodii, form mollissimum) were investigated in a cultivated/wild F2 population by means of RFLP markers. The most critical adaptive changes resulting from the domestication process involved the spikelet structure: non-shedding seeds with reduced bracts and bristles and long involucral pedicel. Major differences also concerned characters describing the plant architecture, phenology and spike sizes. Many morphological differences could be attributed to the effect of a small number of loci with relatively large effects. These loci are mainly concentrated on four linkage groups (2, 5, 6 and 7). The loss of shedding ability, due to the absence of a functional abscission layer, is controlled by a single locus on linkage group 6 (al6). Genetic control of the other spikelet traits involved factors with large effects which are located in the region of linkage group 6 close to al6 and to an esterase gene, Esterase-E. Moreover, QTLs with large effects on plant and spike morphology traits such as plant height, number of spikes and weight of the spike were also mapped on linkage groups 6 and 7. This strong linkage of factors in the domestication syndrome may be involved in the maintenance of the phenotypic identity of wild and cultivated populations in sympatry. This result also brings new arguments in the understanding of the domestication process of this allogamous crop.
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