Moringa oleifera Lam. (synonym: M. ptreygosperma Gaertn.), an economically important multipurpose tree indigenous to northwest India, is the most widely cultivated, applied, and well-known one of all 13 species in the monogeneric family Moringaceae (Olson, 2002). Popularly known as “Drumstick” tree, horseradish tree, or Ben tree, M. oleifera is a deciduous-to-evergreen shrub or small tree with a height of 5 to 10 m (Morton, 1991). Its seedlings are fast-growing with early sexual maturity and a height up to 4.5 m in 9 months and flowering in half a year (Von Maydell, 1986). M. oleifera used to distribute wildly in the forests of Western Himalaya (Hooker, 1879), and then throughout India by cultivation (Selvam, 2005).
Featured by richness in proteins, minerals, and vitamins, the leaves of M. oleifera are used as a highly nutrient vegetable and as cattle fodder (Mughal et al., 1999). In addition, the seed powder is used in water purification (Ndabigengesere and Narasiah, 1998), and the seed oil is acquired for edibles, lubrication, and cosmetics (Anwar and Bhanger, 2003). Because of its multiple applications and commercial benefits, M. oleifera has been broadly introduced and cultivated around the world, and has been identified as important in agri-horti-silviculture programs (Morton, 1991). It is commonly planted in hedges and house yards, especially intercropped in agroforestry systems, and it thrives in various subtropical and tropical regions (Selvam, 2005). Nevertheless, there is a deficient understanding of its detailed gene flow pattern and population genetic structure, which causes uncertainty in designing and managing seed orchards (Muluvi et al., 2004). Thus, the development of efficient molecular markers for M. oleifera is needed.
Based on codominant features and high allelic polymorphism, microsatellites [simple sequence repeats (SSRs)] have become a useful marker system in genetic diversity studies (Walter and Epperson, 2001) and paternity analysis (Chaix et al., 2003). In this article, 20 polymorphic microsatellite markers isolated and characterized from M. oleifera are reported for which no SSRs have been developed to date.
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