Genetic diversity of wild emmer wheat in Israel and Turkey - Structure, evolution, and application in breeding

E. Nevo, A. Beiles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Allozyme variation in the tetraploid wild emmer wheat, Triticum dicoccoides, the progenitor of all cultivated wheats, was studied for the proteins encoded by 42 gene loci in 1815 plants representing 37 populations - 33 from Israel and 4 from Turkey - sampled in 33 localities from 1979 to 1987. The results showed that: (a) 6 loci (14%) were monomorphic in all populations, 15 loci (36%) were locally polymorphic, and 21 loci (50%) were regionally polymorphic. These results are similar to those obtained earlier on 12 Israeli populations. All polymorphic loci (except 4) displayed high local levels of polymorphism (>/ 10%). (b) The mean number of alleles per locus, A, was 1.252 (range: 1.050-1.634); the proportion of polymorphic loci per population averaged 0.220 (range: 0.050-0.415); genic diversity, He, averaged 0.059 (range: 0.002-0.119). (c) Altogether there were 119 alleles at the 42 putative loci tested, 114 of these in Israel, (d) Genetic differentiation was primarily regional and local, not clinal; 70% of the variant alleles were common (>/ 10%) and not widespread, but rather localized or sporadic, displaying an "archipelago" population genetics and ecology structure. The coefficients of genetic distance between populations were high and averaged D = 0.134; range: 0.018-0.297, an indication of sharp genetic differentiation over short distances, (e) Discriminant analyses differentiated Israeli from Turkish populations, and within Israel, between central and 3 marginal regions, as well as between different soil-type populations, (f) Allozymic variation comprised 40% within and 60% between populations, (g) Gametic phase disequilibria were abundant, their number being positively correlated (rs = 0.60, P<0.01) with the humidity, (h) Multilocus organization was substantive, also positively correlated with humidity, (i) Allozyme diversity, overall and at single loci, was significantly correlated with, and partly predictable by, climatic and edaphic factors, (j) The distrubition of the significant positive and negative values and the absence of autocorrelations in the correlogram revealed no similar geographic patterns across loci, eliminating migration as a prime factor of population genetic differentiation. These results suggest: (I) during the evolutionary history of wild emmer, diversifying natural selection, through climatic and edaphic factors, was a major agent of genetic structure and differentiation at both the single and multilocus levels; (II) wild emmer harbors large amounts of genetic diversity exploitable as genetic markers in sampling and abundant genetic resources utilizable for wheat improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-455
Number of pages35
JournalTheoretical And Applied Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1989


  • Environmental selection
  • Genetic polymorphisms
  • Genetic resources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Genetics


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