Diversity of a cytokinin dehydrogenase gene in wild and cultivated barley

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The cytokinin dehydrogenase gene HvCKX2.1 is the regulatory target for the most abundant heterochromatic small RNAs in drought-stressed barley caryopses. We investigated the diversity of HvCKX2.1 in 228 barley landraces and 216 wild accessions and identified 14 haplotypes, five of these with ten or more members, coding for four different protein variants. The third largest haplotype was abundant in wild accessions (51 members), but absent from the landrace collection. Protein structure predictions indicated that the amino acid substitution specific to haplotype 3 could result in a change in the functional properties of the HvCKX2.1 protein. Haplotypes 1–3 have overlapping geographical distributions in the wild population, but the average rainfall amounts at the collection sites for haplotype 3 plants are significantly higher during November to February compared to the equivalent data for plants of haplotypes 1 and 2. We argue that the likelihood that haplotype 3 plants were excluded from landraces by sampling bias that occurred when the first wild barley plants were taken into cultivation is low, and that it is reasonable to suggest that plants with haplotype 3 are absent from the crop because these plants were less suited to the artificial conditions associated with cultivation. Although the cytokinin signalling pathway influences many aspects of plant development, the identified role of HvCKX2.1 in the drought response raises the possibility that the particular aspect of cultivation that mitigated against haplotype 3 relates in some way to water utilization. Our results therefore highlight the possibility that water utilization properties should be looked on as a possible component of the suite of physiological adaptations accompanying the domestication and subsequent evolution of cultivated barley.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Article number14(12): e0225899
JournalPLoS ONE
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2019