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Genetic variation and population structure in black-grass (Alopecurus myosuroides Huds.), a successful, herbicide-resistant, annual grass weed of winter cereal fields


Valérie Le Corre, Fax: +33380693262; E-mail:


Black-grass (Alopecurus myosuroides) is an allogamous grass weed common in cereal fields of northern Europe, which developed resistance to a widely used family of herbicides, the ACCase-inhibiting herbicides. Resistance is caused by mutations at the ACCase gene and other, metabolism-based, mechanisms. We investigated the genetic structure of 36 populations of black-grass collected in one region of France (Côte d’Or), using 116 amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) loci and sequence data at the ACCase gene. The samples were characterized for their level of herbicide resistance and genotyped for seven known ACCase mutations conferring resistance. All samples contained herbicide-resistant plants, and 19 contained ACCase mutations. The genetic diversity at AFLP loci was high (HT = 0.246), while differentiation among samples was low (FST = 0.023) and no isolation by distance was detected. Genetic diversity within samples did not vary with the frequency of herbicide resistance. A Bayesian algorithm was used to infer population structure. The two genetic clusters inferred were not associated with any geographical structure or with herbicide resistance. A high haplotype diversity (Hd = 0.873) and low differentiation (GST = 0.056) were observed at ACCase. However, haplotype diversity within samples decreased with the frequency of ACCase-based resistance. We suggest that the genetic structure of black-grass is affected by its recent expansion as a weed. Our data demonstrate that the strong selection imposed by herbicides did not modify the genome-wide genetic structure of an allogamous weed that probably has large effective population sizes. Our study gives keys to a better understanding of the evolution of successful, noxious weeds in modern agriculture.