The genus Pyrus (pear) includes species and cultivars of great diversity. We have tested the feasibility of a polyacrylamide gel eletrophoresis (PAGE)-based +/– simple sequence repeat (SSR) screen as a means of defining relationships amongst pears of commercial importance in North America. The screen included 28 pear accessions, including economically important cultivars, numbered selections from breeding programs and interspecific hybrids. It relied on 18 SSR primer pairs, each of which produced polymorphic banding patterns in all the genotypes examined. Fragments were scored for presence or absence within genotypes. The results show that amplification and analysis of a small number of SSR loci enable identification of cultivars and reasonable definition of genetic relationships in North American pears. Seven primer pairs were sufficient to distinguish the 28 pear cultivars. Analyses using both distance and parsimony criteria grouped cultivars in a manner consistent with known pedigrees and sites of origin.
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