Threshability, rachis fragility and spike shape are critical traits for the domestication and evolution of wheat, determining the crop yield and efficiency of the harvest. Spelt factor gene Q controls a wide range of domestication-related traits in polyploid wheats, including those mentioned above. The main goal of the present study was to characterise the Q gene for uninvestigated accessions of wheats, including four endemics, and Aegilops accessions, and to analyze the species evolution based on differences in Q gene sequences.
We have studied the spike morphology for 15 accessions of wheat species, including four endemics, namely Triticum macha, T. tibetanum, T. aestivum ssp. petropavlovskyi and T. spelta ssp. yunnanense, and 24 Aegilops accessions, which are donors of B and D genomes for polyploid wheat. The Q-5A, q-5D and q-5S genes were investigated, and a novel allele of the Q-5A gene was found in accessions of T. tibetanum (KU510 and KU515). This allele was similar to the Q allele of T. aestivum cv. Chinese Spring but had an insertion 161 bp in length within exon 5. This insertion led to a frameshift and premature stop codon formation. Thus, the T. tibetanum have spelt spikes, which is probably determined by the gene Tg, rather than Q. We determined the variability within the q-5D genes among hexaploid wheat and their D genome donor Aegilops tauschii. Moreover, we studied the accessions C21-5129, KU-2074, and K-1100 of Ae. tauschii ssp. strangulata, which could be involved in the origin of hexaploid wheats.
The variability and phylogenetic relationships of the Q gene sequences studied allowed us to clarify the relationships between species of the genus Triticum and to predict the donor of the D genome among the Ae. tauschii accessions. Ae. tauschii ssp. strangulata accessions C21-5129, KU-2074 and K-1100 are the most interesting among the analysed accessions, since their partial sequence of q-5D is identical to the q-5D of T. aestivum cv. Chinese Spring. This result indicates that the donor is Ae. tauschii ssp. strangulata but not Ae. tauschii ssp. tauschii. Our analysis allowed us to clarify the phylogenetic relationships in the genus Triticum.