Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Adaptive introgression from maize has facilitated the establishment of teosinte as a noxious weed in Europe.

Abstract

Global trade has considerably accelerated biological invasions. The annual tropical teosintes, the closest wild relatives of maize, were recently reported as new agricultural weeds in two European countries, Spain and France. Their prompt settlement under climatic conditions differing drastically from that of their native range indicates rapid genetic evolution. We performed a phenotypic comparison of French and Mexican teosintes under European conditions and showed that only the former could complete their life cycle during maize cropping season. To test the hypothesis that crop-to-wild introgression triggered such rapid adaptation, we used single nucleotide polymorphisms to characterize patterns of genetic variation in French, Spanish, and Mexican teosintes as well as in maize germplasm. We showed that both Spanish and French teosintes originated from Zea mays ssp. mexicana race "Chalco," a weedy teosinte from the Mexican highlands. However, introduced teosintes differed markedly from their Mexican source by elevated levels of genetic introgression from the high latitude Dent maize grown in Europe. We identified a clear signature of divergent selection in a region of chromosome 8 introgressed from maize and encompassing ZCN8, a major flowering time gene associated with adaptation to high latitudes. Moreover, herbicide assays and sequencing revealed that French teosintes have acquired herbicide resistance via the introgression of a mutant herbicide-target gene (ACC1) present in herbicide-resistant maize cultivars. Altogether, our results demonstrate that adaptive crop-to-wild introgression has triggered both rapid adaptation to a new climatic niche and acquisition of herbicide resistance, thereby fostering the establishment of an emerging noxious weed.