Early allelic selection in maize as revealed by ancient DNA.
Maize was domesticated from teosinte, a wild grass, by approximately 6300 years ago in Mexico. After initial domestication, early farmers continued to select for advantageous morphological and biochemical traits in this important crop. However, the timing and sequence of character selection are, thus far, known only for morphological features discernible in corn cobs. We have analyzed three genes involved in the control of plant architecture, storage protein synthesis, and starch production from archaeological maize samples from Mexico and the southwestern United States. The results reveal that the alleles typical of contemporary maize were present in Mexican maize by 4400 years ago. However, as recently as 2000 years ago, allelic selection at one of the genes may not yet have been complete.