Population genetics of Setaria viridis, a new model system

Pu Huang, Maximilian Feldman, Stephan Schroder, Bochra A. Bahri, Xianmin Diao, Hui Zhi, Matt Estep, Ivan Baxter, Katrien M. Devos, Elizabeth A. Kellogg

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40 Scopus citations


An extensive survey of the standing genetic variation in natural populations is among the priority steps in developing a species into a model system. In recent years, green foxtail (Setaria viridis), along with its domesticated form foxtail millet (S. italica), has rapidly become a promising new model system for C4 grasses and bioenergy crops, due to its rapid life cycle, large amount of seed production and small diploid genome, among other characters. However, remarkably little is known about the genetic diversity in natural populations of this species. In this study, we survey the genetic diversity of a worldwide sample of more than 200 S. viridis accessions, using the genotyping-by-sequencing technique. Two distinct genetic groups in S. viridis and a third group resembling S. italica were identified, with considerable admixture among the three groups. We find the genetic variation of North American S. viridis correlates with both geography and climate and is representative of the total genetic diversity in this species. This pattern may reflect several introduction/dispersal events of S. viridis into North America. We also modelled demographic history and show signal of recent population decline in one subgroup. Finally, we show linkage disequilibrium decay is rapid (<45 kb) in our total sample and slow in genetic subgroups. These results together provide an in-depth understanding of the pattern of genetic diversity of this new model species on a broad geographic scale. They also provide key guidelines for on-going and future work including germplasm preservation, local adaptation, crossing designs and genomewide association studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4912-4925
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • genotyping-by-sequencing
  • model system
  • Phylogeography
  • Setaria viridis


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