The Coix Genome Provides Insights into Panicoideae Evolution and Papery Hull Domestication

Journal:Molecular Plant

Author:Chao Guo, Yanan Wang, Aiguo Yang, Jun He, Chaowen Xiao,  Shanhua Lv,   Fengming Han, Yibing Yuan, Yuan Yuan,  Xiaolong Dong, Juan Guo, Yawen Yang, Hailan Liu, Ningzhi Zuo, Yaxi Hu, Kangxu Zhao, Zhengbo Jiang, Xing Wang, Tingting Jiang, Yaou Shen, Moju Cao, Yuan Wang, Zhaobo Long, Tingzhao Rong, Luqi Huang, Shufeng Zhou


Coix is a grass crop domesticated as early as the Neolithic era. It is still widely cultivated for both highly nutritional food and medicinal use. However, the genetic study and breeding of this crop are hindered by the lack of a sequenced genome. Here, we report de novo sequencing and assembly of the 1619-Mb genome of Coix, and annotation of 75.39% repeats and 39 629 protein-coding genes. Comparative genomics analysis showed that Coix is more closely related to sorghum than maize, but intriguingly only Coix and maize had a recent genome duplication event, which was not detected in sorghum. We further constructed a genetic map and mapped several important traits, especially the strength of hull. Selection of papery hull (thin: easy dehulling) from the stony hull (thick: difficult dehulling) in wild progenitors was a key step in Coix domestication. The papery hull makes seed easier to process and germinate. Anatomic and global transcriptome analysis revealed that the papery hull is a result of inhibition of cell division and wall biogenesis. We also successfully demonstrated that seed hull pressure resistance is controlled by two major quantitative trait loci (QTLs), which are associated with hull thickness and color, respectively. The two QTLs were further fine mapped within intervals of 250 kb and 146 kb, respectively. These resources provide a platform for evolutionary studies and will facilitate molecular breeding of this important crop.