Genomic characterization and gene bank curation of Aegilops: the wild relatives of wheat

Laxman Adhikari, John Raupp, Shuangye Wu, Dal Hoe Koo, Bernd Friebe, Jesse Poland*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genetic diversity found in crop wild relatives is critical to preserve and utilize for crop improvement to achieve sustainable food production amid climate change and increased demand. We genetically characterized a large collection of 1,041 Aegilops accessions distributed among 23 different species using more than 45K single nucleotide polymorphisms identified by genotyping-by-sequencing. The Wheat Genetics Resource Center (WGRC) Aegilops germplasm collection was curated through the identification of misclassified and redundant accessions. There were 49 misclassified and 28 sets of redundant accessions within the four diploid species. The curated germplasm sets now have improved utility for genetic studies and wheat improvement. We constructed a phylogenetic tree and principal component analysis cluster for all Aegilops species together, giving one of the most comprehensive views of Aegilops. The Sitopsis section and the U genome Aegilops clade were further scrutinized with in-depth population analysis. The genetic relatedness among the pair of Aegilops species provided strong evidence for the species evolution, speciation, and diversification. We inferred genome symbols for two species Ae. neglecta and Ae. columnaris based on the sequence read mapping and the presence of segregating loci on the pertinent genomes as well as genetic clustering. The high genetic diversity observed among Aegilops species indicated that the genus could play an even greater role in providing the critical need for untapped genetic diversity for future wheat breeding and improvement. To fully characterize these Aegilops species, there is an urgent need to generate reference assemblies for these wild wheats, especially for the polyploid Aegilops.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1268370
StatePublished - 2023


  • Aegilops
  • gene bank curation
  • genetic diversity
  • genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS)
  • phylogenetic analysis
  • population structure
  • wheat wild relatives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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