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Background The distribution of genetic variability from the interior towards the periphery of a species’ range is of great interest to evolutionary biologists. Although it has been long presumed that population genetic variation should decrease as a species’ range is approached, results of empirical investigations still remain ambiguous. Knowledge regarding patterns of genetic variability as well as affected factors is particularly not conclusive in plants. Methodology/Principal Findings To determine genetic divergence in peripheral populations of the wild rice Oryza rufipogon Griff. from China, genetic diversity and population structure were studied in five northern & northeastern peripheral and 16 central populations using six microsatellite loci. We found that populations resided at peripheries of the species possessed markedly decreased microsatellite diversity than those located in its center. Population size was observed to be positively correlated with microsatellite diversity. Moreover, there are significantly positive correlations between levels of microsatellite diversity and distances from the northern and northeastern periphery of this species. To investigate genetic structure and heterozygosity variation between generations of O. rufipogon, a total of 2382 progeny seeds from 186 maternal families were further assayed from three peripheral and central populations, respectively. Peripheral populations exhibited significantly lower levels of heterozygosities than central populations for both seed and maternal generations. In comparisons with maternal samples, significantly low observed heterozygosity (HO) and high heterozygote deficit within populations (FIS) values were detected in seed samples from both peripheral and central populations. Significantly lower observed heterozygosity (HO) and higher FIS values were further observed in peripheral populations than those in central populations for seed samples. The results indicate an excess of homozygotes and thus high inbreeding depression in peripheral populations. Conclusions/Significance Our results together suggest that historical contraction of geographical range, demographic changes, and environmental conditions near the northern and northeastern margins of O. rufipogon favor inbreeding and possibly selfing, leading to the rapidly decreased effective population size. Genetic drift, reduced gene flow, and possible local selection, consequently lead to lowered gene diversity, accelerated genetic divergence and increased inbreeding depression found in peripheral populations of O. rufipogon. Given these characteristics observed, northern and northeastern peripheral populations deserve relatively different conservation strategies for either germplasm sampling of ex situ conservation or setting in situ reserves for the adaptation to possible environmental changes and the future germplasm utilization of wild rice.
Category: Genetic diversity
Authors: Gao L.-Z. and Gao, C.-W.
Journal/Series: PLoS ONE
Publication Year: 2016

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