Selection on domestication traits and quantitative trait loci in crop-wild sunflower hybrids

Eric J. Baack*, Yuval Sapir, Mark A. Chapman, John M. Burke, Loren H. Rieseberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The strength and extent of gene flow from crops into wild populations depends, in part, on the fitness of the crop alleles, as well as that of alleles at linked loci. Interest in crop-wild gene flow has increased with the advent of transgenic plants, but nontransgenic crop-wild hybrids can provide case studies to understand the factors influencing introgression, provided that the genetic architecture and the fitness effects of loci are known. This study used recombinant inbred lines (RILs) generated from a cross between crop and wild sunflowers to assess selection on domestication traits and quantitative trait loci (QTL) in two contrasting environments, in Indiana and Nebraska, USA. Only a small fraction of plants (9%) produced seed in Nebraska, due to adverse weather conditions, while the majority of plants (79%) in Indiana reproduced. Phenotypic selection analysis found that a mixture of crop and wild traits were favoured in Indiana (i.e. had significant selection gradients), including larger leaves, increased floral longevity, larger disk diameter, reduced ray flower size and smaller achene (seed) mass. Selection favouring early flowering was detected in Nebraska. QTLs for fitness were found at the end of linkage groups six (LG6) and nine (LG9) in both field sites, each explaining 11-12% of the total variation. Crop alleles were favoured on LG9, but wild alleles were favoured on LG6. QTLs for numerous domestication traits overlapped with the fitness QTLs, including flowering date, achene mass, head number, and disk diameter. It remains to be seen if these QTL clusters are the product of multiple linked genes, or individual genes with pleiotropic effects. These results indicate that crop trait values and alleles may sometimes be favoured in a noncrop environment and across broad geographical regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)666-677
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Crop-wild hybridization
  • Hybrid zones
  • Phenotypic selection
  • QTL analysis
  • Recombinant inbred lines (RILs)
  • Sunflower


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