Six mandarin cultivars, Ponkan (Citrus reticulata), Willowleaf (Citrus deliciosa), Kinnow (Citrus nobilis × C. deliciosa), Murcott (purported C. reticulata × Citrus sinensis), W. Murcott [purported (C. reticulata × C. sinensis) × C. reticulata)], and Snack (purported C. reticulata hybrid), were used in protoplast fusion with different parental combinations to generate somatic hybrids. Sixty-five somatic regenerants were obtained using optimized formulation of enzymes and molecular weight of polyethylene glycol for improved protoplast yield and heterokaryon fusion rate, respectively. Flow cytometry was used to determine the ploidy level of somatic regenerants, and nuclear expressed sequence tag–simple sequence repeat (EST-SSR) markers to determine their parental source. Of the 65 somatic regenerants, 46 were identified as autotetraploids, 18 allotetraploids, and one undefined. The EST-SSR markers also revealed that some ‘W. Murcott’ embryogenic callus lines that were presumed to be of nucellar origin were actually derived unexpectedly from individual ovules of zygotic origin. These mandarin-derived tetraploids are valuable as potential breeding parents for interploid crosses with an aim at seedlessness and easy-peeling traits.
Somatic hybridization is a powerful tool for the genetic improvement of citrus rootstocks, and it is part of an efficient in vitro-based breeding system described here. An essential component of the system is the requirement of confirming tetraploidy and the combination of the two donor genomes. Expressed sequence tag–simple sequence repeat (EST-SSR) markers provide a means to accomplish both of these objectives, and their application to a population of pummelo [Citrus grandis (L.) Osbeck] + mandarin (C. reticulata Blanco) somatic hybrids developed for the specific purpose of providing alternative rootstocks for sour orange (Citrus aurantium L.) is detailed. Nineteen new somatic hybrids were produced from various mandarin and pummelo parents, and their ploidy level and the complementation of their nuclear genomes were confirmed using four EST-SSR markers. These markers were selected from markers previously mapped in sweet orange [C. sinensis (L.) Osbeck] and trifoliate orange [Poncirus trifoliata (L.) Raf.] and prescreened for suitable allelic polymorphism within the mandarin and pummelo lines used. After polymerase chain reaction amplification of sequences from the parents and putative hybrids, the products were separated on a genetic sequencer and visualized electronically. Additionally, EST-SSR markers identified the unexpected zygotic origin of a presumed nucellar embryogenic callus line. Integration of EST-SSR techniques for high-throughput genotyping with previously developed approaches to somatic hybrid creation increases substantially the effectiveness and efficiency of this in vitro-based breeding system for citrus rootstock improvement.
Somatic hybridization through protoplast fusion has proven to be a valuable technique in citrus for producing unique allotetraploid breeding parents that combine elite diploid selections. Many citrus somatic hybrids are now flowering and being used in interploid crosses to generate triploid hybrids that produce seedless fruit, a primary objective of citrus breeding programs. Most of the early somatic hybrids produced for mandarin improvement combined sweet oranges with mandarins, because the performance of sweet oranges in tissue/protoplast culture generally exceeds that of most mandarin selections. However, a high percentage of triploid progeny from interploid crosses using sweet orange + mandarin somatic hybrids as the tetraploid parent produce fruit that are difficult to peel. We report nine new allotetraploid somatic hybrids and five new autotetraploids from somatic fusion experiments involving easy-peel mandarin parents. These tetraploids can be used in interploid crosses to increase the percentage of seedless triploid progeny producing easy-to-peel fruit. Ploidy level of the new tetraploids was determined by flow cytometry and their genetic origin by expressed sequence tag–simple sequence repeat marker analysis.