Regulator of Awn Elongation 3, an E3 ubiquitin ligase, is responsible for loss of awns during African rice domestication

Kanako Bessho-Uehara, Kengo Masuda, Diane R. Wang, Rosalyn B. Angeles-Shim, Keisuke Obara, Keisuke Nagai, Riri Murase, Shin Ichiro Aoki, Tomoyuki Furuta, Kotaro Miura, Jianzhong Wu, Yoshiyuki Yamagata, Hideshi Yasui, Michael B. Kantar, Atsushi Yoshimura, Takumi Kamura, Susan R. McCouch, Motoyuki Ashikari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two species of rice have been independently domesticated from different ancestral wild species in Asia and Africa. Comparison of mutations that underlie phenotypic and physiological alterations associated with domestication traits in these species gives insights into the domestication history of rice in both regions. Asian cultivated rice, Oryza sativa, and African cultivated rice, Oryza glaberrima, have been modified and improved for common traits beneficial for humans, including erect plant architecture, nonshattering seeds, nonpigmented pericarp, and lack of awns. Independent mutations in orthologous genes associated with these traits have been documented in the two cultivated species. Contrary to this prevailing model, selection for awnlessness targeted different genes in O. sativa and O. glaberrima. We identify Regulator of Awn Elongation 3 (RAE3) a gene that encodes an E3 ubiquitin ligase and is responsible for the awnless phenotype only in O. glaberrima. A 48-bp deletion may disrupt the substrate recognition domain in RAE3 and diminish awn elongation. Sequencing analysis demonstrated low nucleotide diversity in a ~600-kb region around the derived rae3 allele on chromosome 6 in O. glaberrima compared with its wild progenitor. Identification of RAE3 sheds light on the molecular mechanism underlying awn development and provides an example of how selection on different genes can confer the same domestication phenotype in Asian and African rice.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2207105120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jan 24 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • African rice
  • awn
  • convergent evolution
  • domestication
  • E3 ubiquitin ligase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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