Chinese scientists sequence whole genome of 3,800-year-old wheat samples

Chinese scientists have sequenced the whole genome of seven 3,800-year-old wheat samples unearthed from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, decoding the food crop’s spreading route into China.

Four Chinese institutes jointly conducted the research. The scientists extracted DNA from seven ancient wheat seeds dating back to 3,800 years ago discovered from Xiaohe and Gumugou cemeteries in northwest China’s Xinjiang, which is an essential geographic intersection between the East and the West. They then sequenced the whole genome of the seven ancient samples.

Cui Yinqiu, a professor of the School of Life Sciences in Jilin University, involved in the research, said the dehusked and well-preserved seeds randomly selected from the archaeological sites have the genomic similarity with wheat currently grown in southwest China.

The scientists proposed that the common wheat dispersed from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in west China to the Yangtze River valley in central and eastern China.

Common wheat domestication began in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East around 10,000 years ago, and then spread west into Europe and eastward into East Asia and China, however, the spreading route in China is still unclear, according to research.

“Current wheat varieties have experienced continuous upgrading amid many human interventions, so now we have no idea at all about what the original wheat genome was like. It’s lost,” said Cui.

The research provided detailed information on the origin, dispersal and genetic improvement for the cultivation of present-day wheat and was published online on “The Plant Journal” on May 28.

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