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Carlos Calderón-Vázquez, Mary L. Durbin, Vanessa E.T.M. Ashworth, Livia Tommasini, Kapua K.T. Meyer, and Michael T. Clegg

Avocado (Persea americana) is a subtropical tree prized for its large and nutritious fruit. Although native to Mesoamerica, avocado is now grown in tropical and subtropical regions around the world, and consumer demand for avocado continues to grow at a considerable rate. Despite the appeal of avocado, its genetic improvement has been slow owing to substantial land and labor requirements combined with the fact that young trees do not produce fruit for several years and a pollination system that makes it difficult to produce genetic crosses. Molecular markers promise to accelerate the rate of breeding progress, especially for simple traits of high heritability. One of the distinguishing features of the avocado fruit is the presence of a number of compounds that have been linked to human health. As a prelude to the use of molecular markers for the improvement of nutritional traits, this article reports estimates of the heritability of carotenoids, β-sitosterol, and α-tocopherol content (the most biologically active form of vitamin E) in ripe avocado fruit. Each of these three compounds has been linked to beneficial health outcomes, and each is shown to have a sufficiently high heritability to predict successful marker-assisted selection.