Seeing red: The origin of grain pigmentation in US weedy rice

Briana L. Gross, Michael Reagon, Shih Chung Hsu, Ana L. Caicedo, Yulin Jia, Kenneth M. Olsen

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70 Scopus citations


Weedy forms of crop species infest agricultural fields worldwide and are a leading cause of crop losses, yet little is known about how these weeds evolve. Red rice (Oryza sativa), a major weed of cultivated rice fields in the US, is recognized by the dark-pigmented grain that gives it its common name. Studies using neutral molecular markers have indicated a close relationship between US red rice and domesticated rice, suggesting that the weed may have originated through reversion of domesticated rice to a feral form. We have tested this reversion hypothesis by examining molecular variation at Rc, the regulatory gene responsible for grain pigmentation differences between domesticated and wild rice. Loss-of-function mutations at Rc account for the absence of proanthocyanidin pigments in cultivated rice grains, and the major rc domestication allele has been shown to be capable of spontaneous reversion to a functional form through additional mutations at the Rc locus. Using a diverse sample of 156 weedy, domesticated and wild Oryzas, we analysed DNA sequence variation at Rc and its surrounding 4 Mb genomic region. We find that reversion of domestication alleles does not account for the pigmented grains of weed accessions; moreover, we find that haplotypes characterizing the weed are either absent or very rare in cultivated rice. Sequences from genomic regions flanking Rc are consistent with a genomic footprint of the rc selective sweep in cultivated rice, and they are compatible with a close relationship of red rice to Asian Oryzas that have never been cultivated in the US.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3380-3393
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Oryza sativa
  • crop-weed evolution
  • de-domestication
  • grain colour
  • proanthocyanidin
  • red rice


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