To study genome evolution in allopolyploid plants, we analyzed polyploid wheats and their diploid progenitors for the occurrence of 16 low-copy chromosome- or genome-specific sequences isolated from hexaploid wheat. Based on their occurrence in the diploid species, we classified the sequences into two groups: group I, found in only one of the three diploid progenitors of hexaploid wheat, and group II, found in all three diploid progenitors. The absence of group II sequences from one genome of tetraploid wheat and from two genomes of hexaploid wheat indicates their specific elimination from these genomes at the polyploid level. Analysis of a newly synthesized amphiploid, having a genomic constitution analogous to that of hexaploid wheat, revealed a pattern of sequence elimination similar to the one found in hexaploid wheat. Apparently, speciation through allopolyploidy is accompanied by a rapid, nonrandom elimination of specific, lowcopy, probably noncoding DNA sequences at the early stages of allopolyploidization, resulting in further divergence of homoeologous chromosomes (partially homologous chromosomes of different genomes carrying the same order of gene loci). We suggest that such genomic changes may provide the physical basis for the diploid-like meiotic behavior of polyploid wheat.

  • Received May 29, 1997.
  • Accepted August 4, 1997.