Edible european pears (Pyrus communis L. ssp. communis) are derived from wild relatives native to the Caucasus Mountain region and eastern Europe. Microsatellite markers (13 loci) were used to determine the relationships among 145 wild and cultivated individuals of P. communis maintained in the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS). A Bayesian clustering method grouped the individual pear genotypes into 12 clusters. Pyrus communis ssp. caucasica (Fed.) Browicz, native to the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, Crimea, and Armenia, can be genetically differentiated from P. communis ssp. pyraster L. native to eastern European countries. The domesticated pears cluster closely together and are most closely related to a group of genotypes that are intermediate to the P. communis ssp. pyraster and the P. communis ssp. caucasica groups. Based on the high number of unique alleles and heterozygosity in each of the 12 clusters, we conclude that genetic diversity of wild P. communis is not fully represented at the NPGS. Additional diversity may be present in seed accessions stored in the NPGS and more pear diversity could be captured through supplementary collection trips to eastern Europe, the Caucasus Mountains, and the surrounding countries.
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