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Comp Funct Genomics. 2004 April; 5(3): 281–284.
PMCID: PMC2447450

On the Tetraploid Origin of the Maize Genome


Data from cytological and genetic mapping studies suggest that maize arose as a tetraploid. Two previous studies investigating the most likely mode of maize origin arrived at different conclusions. Gaut and Doebley [7] proposed a segmental allotetraploid origin of the maize genome and estimated that the two maize progenitors diverged at 20.5 million years ago (mya). In a similar study, using larger data set, Brendel and colleagues (quoted in [8]) suggested a single genome duplication at 16 mya. One of the key components of such analyses is to examine sequence divergence among strictly orthologous genes. In order to identify such genes, Lai and colleagues [10] sequenced five duplicated chromosomal regions from the maize genome and the orthologous counterparts from the sorghum genome. They also identified the orthologous regions in rice. Using positional information of genetic components, they identified 11 orthologous genes across the two duplicated regions of maize, and the sorghum and rice regions. Swigonova et al. [12] analyzed the 11 orthologues, and showed that all five maize chromosomal regions duplicated at the same time, supporting a tetraploid origin of maize, and that the two maize progenitors diverged from each other at about the same time as each of them diverged from sorghum, about 11.9 mya.

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