Gossypium barbadense and Gossypium hirsutum genomes provide insights into the origin and evolution of allotetraploid cotton.
Allotetraploid cotton is an economically important natural-fiber-producing crop worldwide. After polyploidization, Gossypium hirsutum L. evolved to produce a higher fiber yield and to better survive harsh environments than Gossypium barbadense, which produces superior-quality fibers. The global genetic and molecular bases for these interspecies divergences were unknown. Here we report high-quality de novo-assembled genomes for these two cultivated allotetraploid species with pronounced improvement in repetitive-DNA-enriched centromeric regions. Whole-genome comparative analyses revealed that species-specific alterations in gene expression, structural variations and expanded gene families were responsible for speciation and the evolutionary history of these species. These findings help to elucidate the evolution of cotton genomes and their domestication history. The information generated not only should enable breeders to improve fiber quality and resilience to ever-changing environmental conditions but also can be translated to other crops for better understanding of their domestication history and use in improvement.