Domestication and the storage starch biosynthesis pathway: signatures of selection from a whole sorghum genome sequencing strategy
The evolution of metabolic pathways is a fundamental but poorly understood aspect of evolutionary change. One approach for understanding the complexity of pathway evolution is to examine the molecular evolution of genes that together comprise an integrated metabolic pathway. The rice endosperm starch biosynthetic pathway is one of the most thoroughly characterized metabolic pathways in plants, and starch is a trait that has evolved in response to strong selection during rice domestication. In this study, we have examined six key genes (AGPL2, AGPS2b, SSIIa, SBEIIb, GBSSI, ISA1) in the rice endosperm starch biosynthesis pathway to investigate the evolution of these genes before and after rice domestication. Genome-wide sequence tagged sites data were used as a neutral reference to overcome the problems of detecting selection in species with complex demographic histories such as rice. Five variety groups of Oryza sativa (aus, indica, tropical japonica, temperate japonica, aromatic) and its wild ancestor (O. rufipogon) were sampled. Our results showed evidence of purifying selection at AGPL2 in O. rufipogon and strong evidence of positive selection at GBSSI in temperate japonica and tropical japonica varieties and at GBSSI and SBEIIb in aromatic varieties. All the other genes showed a pattern consistent with neutral evolution in both cultivated rice and its wild ancestor. These results indicate the important role of positive selection in the evolution of starch genes during rice domestication. We discuss the role of SBEIIb and GBSSI in the evolution of starch quality during rice domestication and the power and limitation of detecting selection using genome-wide data as a neutral reference.