Locus-specific view of flax domestication history.
Crop domestication has been inferred genetically from neutral markers and increasingly from specific domestication-associated loci. However, some crops are utilized for multiple purposes that may or may not be reflected in a single domestication-associated locus. One such example is cultivated flax (Linum usitatissimum L.), the earliest oil and fiber crop, for which domestication history remains poorly understood. Oil composition of cultivated flax and pale flax (L. bienne Mill.) indicates that the sad2 locus is a candidate domestication locus associated with increased unsaturated fatty acid production in cultivated flax. A phylogenetic analysis of the sad2 locus in 43 pale and 70 cultivated flax accessions established a complex domestication history for flax that has not been observed previously. The analysis supports an early, independent domestication of a primitive flax lineage, in which the loss of seed dispersal through capsular indehiscence was not established, but increased oil content was likely occurred. A subsequent flax domestication process occurred that probably involved multiple domestications and includes lineages that contain oil, fiber, and winter varieties. In agreement with previous studies, oil rather than fiber varieties occupy basal phylogenetic positions. The data support multiple paths of flax domestication for oil-associated traits before selection of the other domestication-associated traits of seed dispersal loss and fiber production. The sad2 locus is less revealing about the origin of winter tolerance. In this case, a single domestication-associated locus is informative about the history of domesticated forms with the associated trait while partially informative on forms less associated with the trait.
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