Several studies suggested that the diploid ancestor of the B genome of tetraploid and hexaploid wheat species belongs to the Sitopsis section, having Aegilops speltoides (SS, 2n = 14) as the closest identified relative. However molecular relationships based on genomic sequence comparison, including both coding and non-coding DNA, have never been investigated. In an attempt to clarify these relationships, we compared, in this study, sequences of the Storage Protein Activator (SPA) locus region of the S genome of Ae. speltoides (2n = 14) to that of the A, B and D genomes co-resident in the hexaploid wheat species (Triticum aestivum, AABBDD, 2n = 42).
Four BAC clones, spanning the SPA locus of respectively the A, B, D and S genomes, were isolated and sequenced. Orthologous genomic regions were identified as delimited by shared non-transposable elements and non-coding sequences surrounding the SPA gene and correspond to 35 268, 22 739, 43 397 and 53 919 bp for the A, B, D and S genomes, respectively. Sequence length discrepancies within and outside the SPA orthologous regions are the result of non-shared transposable elements (TE) insertions, all of which inserted after the progenitors of the four genomes divergence.
On the basis of conserved sequence length as well as identity of the shared non-TE regions and the SPA coding sequence, Ae speltoides appears to be more evolutionary related to the B genome of T. aestivum than the A and D genomes. However, the differential insertions of TEs, none of which are conserved between the two genomes led to the conclusion that the S genome of Ae. speltoides has diverged very early from the progenitor of the B genome which remains to be identified.