The Genomic Signature of Crop-Wild Introgression in Maize
The evolutionary significance of hybridization and introgression has long been appreciated, but evaluation of the genome-wide effects of these phenomena has only recently become possible. Crop-wild study systems represent ideal opportunities to examine evolution through hybridization. For example, maize and the conspecific wild teosinte Zea mays ssp. mexicana are known to hybridize in the fields of highland Mexico. Despite widespread evidence of gene flow, maize and mexicana maintain distinct morphologies and have done so in sympatry for thousands of years. Neither the genomic extent nor the evolutionary importance of introgression between these taxa is understood. We assessed patterns of genome-wide introgression based on 39,029 single nucleotide polymorphisms genotyped in 189 individuals from nine sympatric maize-mexicana populations and reference allopatric populations. While portions of these genomes were particularly resistant to introgression (notably near known cross-incompatibility and domestication loci), we detected widespread evidence for introgression in both directions of gene flow. Through further characterization of these regions and a growth chamber experiment we found evidence consistent with the incorporation of adaptive mexicana alleles into maize during its expansion to the highlands of central Mexico. In contrast, very little evidence was found indicating introgression from maize to mexicana altered the niche of this wild taxon, increasing its capacity to persist commensal to agriculture. The methods we have applied here can be replicated widely across species, greatly informing our understanding of evolution through introgressive hybridization. Crop species, due to their exceptional genomic resources and frequent histories of diffusion into sympatry with relatives, should be particularly influential in these studies.