How humans transformed wild wheat into its modern counterpart

Credit: Zvi Peleg

A sophisticated sequencing study reveals genetic changes that emerged in wheat as it became domesticated by agricultural societies in the Fertile Crescent, roughly 10,000 years ago. The findings provide scientists with a better understanding of traits in modern wheat – the variety used to make bread and pasta – and could inform efforts to improve the yield and quality of this key food source. The domestication of wild wheat caused a shift in traits, which mostly relate to seed dormancy, spike morphology, and grain development. For example, while the spikes of wild wheat shatter at maturity, all domesticated wheat spikes remain intact, which enables easier harvest. Here, Raz Avni and colleagues used 3-D genetic sequencing data and software to reconstruct the 14 chromosomes of wild tetraploid wheat, Triticum turgidum. The team then compared genes responsible for shattering in domesticated wheat to the corresponding genes in wild wheat, in order to understand genetic changes underlying the evolutionary transition to a non-shattering state. They identified two clusters of genes in domesticated wheat that have lost their function. When they engineered strains of wheat with one of these gene clusters restored, the wheat exhibited unique spikes where the upper part was brittle and the lower part was not brittle. These results suggest that the two gene clusters play a part in the transforming the brittle qualities of wild wheat.


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  1. Joudrier says

    The evolution of wheat ancestors to “modern” wheat are not due to humans.

    Between – 10 000 and – 8000 BC, it happens crosses between Triticum monococcum (genome A) and probably Aegilops speltoides (genome B) to create tetraploid wheats among them Triticum durum (genomes A and B) used now for pasta products in many countries.
    Then crosses between Triticum turgidum and Aegilops squarrosa (genome D, named now Triticum tauschii) create hexaploid wheats among them Trtiticum aestivum (hexaploid : genome A, B and D) used to make bread.
    These crosses have not been made by humans in the wheat evolutionary process. it appears spontaneously !

    Then it is false to write : “modern wheat – the variety used to make bread and pasta –” No two differents species are used to make bread and pasta !

  2. gary says

    Have the protein differences due to genetic changes throughout the development of modern Wheat added to the seemingly increasing cases of gluten intolerance?

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