European plum (Prunus domestica L.) is an economically important temperate fruit species and was one of the first crops that attracted human interest (Faust and Surányi, 1999). Its fruits are very popular because it can be used for several purposes, such as for fresh consumption, in spirit production, jam making, drying, cooking, and baking products (Neumüller, 2011; Saridas et al., 2016). Plums belong to the genus Prunus of the family Rosaceae. The wild type of the species is still unknown; however, several hypotheses were created about its origin. The hexaploid (2n = 6x = 48) P. domestica is proved to be a relatively young species (Das et al., 2011). It is most likely that the extant European lineages Prunus spinosa, Prunus cerasifera, and P. domestica descended from an ancestor that migrated from eastern Asia (Chin et al., 2014).
Traditional cultivars were mainly obtained as selections of primitive forms and hence their origin is unknown. Modern cultivars arose from breeding programs started in the second half of the 20th century, and double crossing, pyramidic crossing, mutagenesis, and several laboratory assays were used in such programs compared with traditional breeding (Hartman and Neumüller, 2009). The main purposes of modern plum breeding are climatic adaptation, precocity, high and regular yield, extension of ripening time, high fruit quality, and abiotic and biotic resistance. The genetic variability of accessions was initially based on assessing morphological traits. European plum is a less-investigated species in the Prunoideae subfamily because of the complex structure of its genome (Neumüller, 2011). In addition, genetic linkage maps or the whole genome sequence of the species is not available yet. Molecular markers developed from Prunus species offer a reliable tool to study and understand genome evolution and structure, the estimation of genetic diversity, the determination of genetic relationship, and the identification of cultivars (Gharbi et al., 2014; Wünsch, 2009). Analysis of genetic relationships and diversity in cultivated species is a key point in crop improvement because it supports the selection of parental genotypes and contributes to the planning of offspring genome; hence, it can be an invaluable tool in breeders’ hands (Benjak et al., 2005; Sorkheh and Khaleghi, 2016; Yazici and Sahin, 2016).
The first reports on cultivar identification of P. domestica were based on randomly amplified polymorphic DNA analysis (Gregor et al., 1994). Microsatellites or SSRs are highly informative, reproducible, multiallelic, abundant, locus-specific, and codominant markers. Based on these features, they present a useful tool for plant molecular genetic studies, such as genetic mapping, population genetics, marker-assisted selection, or fingerprinting (Wünsch, 2009). Conservation of Prunus SSR loci ranged between 57% and 100%, which means that the same primer set could be used in case of different species within the genus (Mnejja et al., 2004).
The parentage of three European plum cultivars (‘Cacanska najbolja’, ‘Cacanska rana’, and ‘Cacanska lepotica’) was reconstructed using nuclear and chloroplastic microsatellite analyses (Decroocq et al., 2004). SSR markers also allowed identifying different clones of ‘Reine Claude Verte’ (Gharbi et al., 2014). In addition, efforts were devoted to study germplasm collections in different countries using SSR markers (Horvath et al., 2011; Kazija et al., 2014; Sehic et al., 2015). SSR analysis of traditional Turkish plums collected in east Anatolia revealed high genetic diversity (Öz et al., 2013).
Some plum species are native to Hungary (Rapaics, 1940). Plums in Hungary are highly variable because of the spontaneous hybridization among different species. Furthermore, some of the local genotypes have been propagated by seeds over centuries (Surányi, 1998) which contributed to the high diversity available within the country. These genotypes are well adapted to the local climatic conditions, they show elevated resistance to pests and diseases, and they are also characterized by special organoleptic qualities (Sehic et al., 2015). Maintenance of landraces and traditional cultivars may help in these serving as valuable gene resources.
Degree of genetic diversity is a fundamental parameter in both conservation biology and breeding programs. Because there is no exact information on the genetic background of Hungarian plums, our objective was to fingerprint 55 European plums using SSR markers to estimate the polymorphism level, determine allelic variation among Hungarian landraces, and comparing the results with those of the economically important, internationally widespread cultivars.
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