Little white lies: Pericarp color provides insights into the origins and evolution of Southeast Asian weedy rice

Yongxia Cui, Beng Kah Song, Lin Feng Li, Ya Ling Li, Zhongyun Huang, Ana L. Caicedo, Yulin Jia, Kenneth M. Olsen

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33 Citations (Scopus)


Weedy rice is a conspecific form of cultivated rice (Oryza sativa L.) that infests rice fields and results in severe crop losses. Weed strains in different world regions appear to have originated multiple times from different domesticated and/or wild rice progenitors. In the case of Malaysian weedy rice, a multipleorigin model has been proposed based on neutral markers and analyses of domestication genes for hull color and seed shattering. Here, we examined variation in pericarp (bran) color and its molecular basis to address how this trait evolved in Malaysian weeds and its possible role in weed adaptation. Functional alleles of the Rc gene confer proanthocyanidin pigmentation of the pericarp, a trait found in most wild and weedy Oryzas and associated with seed dormancy; nonfunctional rc alleles were strongly favored during rice domestication, and most cultivated varieties have nonpigmented pericarps. Phenotypic characterizations of 52 Malaysian weeds revealed that most strains are characterized by the pigmented pericarp; however, some weeds have white pericarps, suggesting close relationships to cultivated rice. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that the Rc haplotypes present in Malaysian weeds likely have at least three distinct origins: wild O. rufipogon, white-pericarp cultivated rice, and red-pericarp cultivated rice. These diverse origins contribute to high Rc nucleotide diversity in the Malaysian weeds. Comparison of Rc allelic distributions with other rice domestication genes suggests that functional Rc alleles may confer particular fitness benefits in weedy rice populations, for example, by conferring seed dormancy. This may promote functional Rc introgression from local wild Oryza populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4105-4114
Number of pages10
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Adaptive introgression
  • Rc gene
  • Seed dormancy
  • Targeted genome sequencing
  • Weedy crop relatives

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