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  Fruits 72 (5) 292-305 | DOI: 10.17660/th2017/72.5.5
ISSN 0248-1294 print and 1625-967X online | © ISHS 2017 | Fruits, The International Journal of Tropical and Subtropical Horticulture | Original article

Exploiting DNA-based molecular tools to assess genetic diversity in pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) selections and cultivars

A. Giancaspro2, A. Mazzeo1, L.S. Giove2, D. Zito2, I. Marcotuli2, A. Gallotta1, P. Colasuonno2, D. Nigro1, A. Blanco1, M. Aradhya3, A. Gadaleta2 and G. Ferrara1,a
1 Department of Soil, Plant and Food Sciences, University of Bari ‘Aldo Moro’, Via G. Amendola 165/A, 70126 Bari, Italy
2 Department of Environmental and Territorial Sciences, University of Bari ‘Aldo Moro’, Via G. Amendola 165/A, 70126 Bari, Italy
3 National Clonal Germplasm Repository, USDA-ARS, University of California, One Shields Ave, Davis, CA 95616, USA

SUMMARY
Introduction – Nowadays the demand for pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) as fresh fruit and derived products (arils, juice, jam, etc.) has been considerably rising due to increased awareness about its nutritive value and nutraceutical properties. Consequently, genetic improvement efforts are focused on the identification of the most productive and nutritionally valuable genotypes for commercial production. Evaluation of pomegranate germplasm has been usually based on morpho-pomological traits such as yield, fruit size, seed-hardness, juice sweetness, rind and aril color, antioxidant activity, fatty acids, polyphenols and anthocyanin content, whereas genetic studies received less attention. Materials and methods – Microsatellite (SSR) markers have been employed to estimate genetic diversity and determine the genetic structure in a collection of pomegranate accessions including both selections and cultivars with different origins/disseminations and pomological traits. Results and discussion – The overall genetic diversity analysis was able to group pomegranate germplasm into clusters according to both geographical origin/diffusion and pomological traits, such as juice sweetness, skin and aril color. Moreover, pomegranate accessions from different geographical areas appeared more similar in comparison with those accessions within the same origin. The SSR classification was consistent with either the morphological description (juice taste and skin/aril color) or the geographical origin/diffusion, thus confirming the intense germplasm flow since ancient times from Asia to Mediterranean areas such as Southern Italy, Spain and Northern Africa. Conclusion – Microsatellites were able to establish genetic relationships among the different pomegranate selections and cultivars and allowed to identify synonyms and homonyms. They proved powerful tools for genetic improvement programs combining complementary traits addressing the new market needs.

Résumé
Exploiter des outils moléculaires à base d’ADN pour évaluer la diversité génétique dans les sélections et les cultivars de grenade (Punica granatum L.).
Introduction – De nos jours, la consommation de grenade (Punica granatum L.) en fruits frais et produits dérivés (arilles, jus, confitures, etc.) a considérablement augmenté en raison d’une prise de conscience accrue de sa valeur nutritive et de ses propriétés nutraceutiques. En conséquence, les efforts d’amélioration génétique pour la production commerciale ont été axés sur l’identification des génotypes les plus productifs et les plus nutritifs. L’évaluation des ressources génétiques de grenade est habituellement basée sur des traits morpho-pomologiques tels que le rendement, la taille des fruits, la dureté des graines, la douceur des jus, la couleur de l’écorce et de l’arille, l’activité anti-oxydante, les teneurs en acides gras, polyphénols et anthocyanines, alors que les études génétiques ont reçu moins d’attention. Matériel et méthodes – Les marqueurs microsatellites (SSR) ont été utilisés pour estimer la diversité génétique et déterminer la structure génétique dans une collection d’accessions de grenade comprenant à la fois des sélections et des cultivars de différentes origines/distributions et caractéristiques des fruits. Résultats et discussion – L’analyse globale de la diversité génétique a permis de grouper les ressources génétiques de grenade en clusters selon les origines géographiques / la diffusion de matériel génétique et les caractéristiques des fruits, telles que la douceur des jus, la peau et la couleur arille. De plus, les accessions de différentes régions géographiques sont apparues plus semblables entre elles que les accessions de même origine. Ces similitudes confirment le flux intense de ressources génétiques depuis l’Antiquité en provenance d’Asie vers les régions méditerranéennes telles que le sud de l’Italie, l’Espagne et l’Afrique du Nord. Conclusion – Les microsatellites ont pu établir des relations génétiques entre différentes sélections et cultivars de grenade et ont permis d’identifier synonymes et homonymes. Ils se sont révélés des outils puissants pour les programmes d’amélioration génétique combinant des caractères complémentaires répondant aux nouveaux besoins du marché.

Keywords pomegranate, Punica granatum, genetic diversity, germplasm management, microsatellites (SSR), population structure

Mots clés grenade, Punica granatum, diversité génétique, gestion des ressources génétiques, microsatellites (SSR), structure de la population

Significance of this study

What is already known on this subject?

  • Pomegranate includes a very huge number of cultivated, wild and ornamental genotypes, differing for several morpho-chemical traits such as yield, fruit size, flowering and ripening time, seed-hardness, juice sweetness, rind and aril color, antioxidant activity, fatty acid, polyphenol and anthocyanin contents.
What are the new findings?
  • Pomegranate accessions from different geographical areas (Italy, Israel, Turkmenistan, USA, Japan) appeared more similar with respect to accessions within the same country. The SSR classification was consistent with either the morphological description (juice taste and skin/aril color) or the geographical origin/diffusion. It confirmed the intense flow of genetic materials from Persia towards different countries since ancient times.
What is the expected impact on horticulture?
  • The SSR markers are able either to discriminate between synonyms and homonyms or to identify suitable accessions to be used in breeding programs. Genetic diversity assessment with microsatellites can be used in breeding to select superior pomegranate cultivars for improved nutritional properties, disease resistance and agronomical traits (flavor, size, color, etc.).

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E-mail: giuseppe.ferrara@uniba.it  

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Received: 14 July 2017 | Accepted: 22 August 2017 | Published: 28 September 2017 | Available online: 28 September 2017

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