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Natural variation of barley vernalization requirements: implication of quantitative variation of winter growth habit as an adaptive trait in East Asia

Natural variation of barley vernalization requirements: implication of quantitative variation of winter growth habit as an adaptive trait in East Asia

Plant and Cell Physiology 52(5): 775-784

In many temperate plant species, prolonged cold treatment, known as vernalization, is one of the most critical steps in the transition from the vegetative to the reproductive stage. In contrast to recent advances in understanding the molecular basis of vernalization in Arabidopsis non-vernalization mutants or the spring growth habits of cereal crops such as wheat and barley, natural variations in winter growth habits and their geographic distribution are poorly understood. We analyzed varietal variation and the geographic distribution of the degree of vernalization requirements in germplasms of domesticated barley and wild barley collections. We found a biased geographic distribution of vernalization requirements in domesticated barley: Western regions were strongly associated with a higher degree of spring growth habits, and the extreme winter growth habits were localized to Far Eastern regions including China, Korea and Japan. Both wild accessions and domesticated landraces, the regions of distribution of which overlapped each other, mainly belonged to the moderate class of winter growth habit. As a result of quantitative evaluations performed in this study, we provide evidence that the variation in the degree of winter growth habit in recombinant inbred lines was controlled by quantitative trait loci including three vernalization genes (VRN1, VRN2 and VRN3) that account for 37.9% of the variation in vernalization requirements, with unknown gene(s) explaining the remaining two-thirds of the variation. This evidence implied that the Far Eastern accessions might be a genetically differentiated group derived for an evolutionary reason, resulting in their greater tendency towards a winter growth habit.

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Accession: 036089307

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PMID: 21482579

DOI: 10.1093/pcp/pcr046

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