Molecular genetic variation of animals and plants under domestication

Leif Andersson, Michael Purugganan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Domesticated plants and animals played crucial roles as models for evolutionary change by means of natural selection and for establishing the rules of inheritance, originally proposed by Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel, respectively. Here, we review progress that has been made during the last 35 y in unraveling the molecular genetic variation underlying the stunning phenotypic diversity in crops and domesticated animals that inspired Mendel and Darwin. We notice that numerous domestication genes, crucial for the domestication process, have been identified in plants, whereas animal domestication appears to have a polygenic background with no obvious "domestication genes" involved. Although model organisms, such as Drosophila and Arabidopsis, have replaced domesticated species as models for basic research, the latter are still outstanding models for evolutionary research because phenotypic change in these species represents an evolutionary process over thousands of years. A consequence of this is that some alleles contributing to phenotypic diversity have evolved by accumulating multiple changes in the same gene. The continued molecular characterization of crops and farm animals with ever sharper tools is essential for future food security.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2122150119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number30
StatePublished - Jul 26 2022


  • Mendel
  • crops
  • domestic animals
  • domestication
  • genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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