One of the primary progenitors of the cultivated apple (Malus ×domestica) is M. sieversii, a species native to the forested regions of Central Asia. Despite the horticultural importance of M. sieversii, little is known about its genetic variation. In this study, isozyme diversity at 18 loci was determined for 259 open-pollinated offspring belonging to 31 different maternal half-sib families collected from 14 different populations in 4 regions of central Asia. Genetic diversity statistics were computed from the resulting allele and phenotype frequencies. Cluster analysis of half-sib families showed that there was some grouping based on geographic region, but 16 of the half-sib families were most closely related to half-sib families from other regions. AMOVA, the analysis of molecular variance, indicated that most of the enzyme variability (85%) was attributable to differences among half-sib families within populations, none could be assigned to populations within regions, and 15% was due to differences among regions. In addition, no alleles were found that were both fixed in a region and unique to that region. These results suggest that plants belonging to M. sieversii effectively form a single panmictic population. Thus, a thorough sampling of a few large populations will efficiently capture most of the genetic diversity present in wild M. sieversii.
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