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Rice's origins point to China, genome researchers conclude
Date:5/2/2011

sets, some of which have been used to argue that indica and japonica rice have separate origins. Using more modern computer algorithms, however, the researchers concluded these two species have the same origin because they have a closer genetic relationship to each other than to any wild rice species found in either India or China.

In addition, the study's authors examined the phylogeny of domesticated rice by re-sequencing 630 gene fragments on selected chromosomes from a diverse set of wild and domesticated rice varieties. Using new modeling techniques, which had previously been used to look at genomic data in human evolution, their results showed that the gene sequence data was more consistent with a single origin of rice.

In their PNAS study, the investigators also used a "molecular clock" of rice genes to see when rice evolved. Depending on how the researchers calibrated their clock, they pinpointed the origin of rice at possibly 8,200 years ago, while japonica and indica split apart from each other about 3,900 years ago. The study's authors pointed out that these molecular dates were consistent with archaeological studies. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence in the last decade for rice domestication in the Yangtze Valley beginning approximately 8,000 to 9,000 years ago while domestication of rice in the India's Ganges region was around about 4,000 years ago.

"As rice was brought in from China to India by traders and migrant farmers, it likely hybridized extensively with local wild rice," explained NYU biologist Michael Purugganan, one of the study's co-authors. "So domesticated rice that we may have once thought originated in India actually has its beginnings in China."

"This study is a good example of the new insights that can be gained from combining genomics, informatics and modeling," says Barbara A. Schaal, Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, who is als
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Contact: James Devitt
james.devitt@nyu.edu
212-998-6808
New York University
Source:Eurekalert

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