, Volume 99, Issue 1-2, pp 133-139

Chloroplast-DNA variation in cultivated and wild olive (Olea europaea L.)

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Polymorphism in the lengths of restriction fragments of the whole cpDNA molecule was studied in cultivated olive and in oleaster (wild olive) over the whole Mediterranean Basin. Seventy two olive cultivars, 89 very old trees cultivated locally, and 101 oleasters were scored for ten endonucleases. Moreover, maternal inheritance of cpDNA in olive was shown by analysing the progeny of a controlled cross between two parents which differed in their cpDNA haplotypes. In the whole species, three site- and three length-mutations were observed, corresponding to five distinct chlorotypes. The same chlorotype (I) was predominant in both oleasters and cultivated olive trees, confirming that these are closely related maternally. Three other chlorotypes (II, III and IV) were observed exclusively in oleaster material and were restricted either to isolated forest populations or to a few individuals growing in mixture with olive trees possessing the majority chlorotype. An additional chlorotype (V) was characterised by three mutations located in distinct parts the cpDNA molecule but which were never observed to occur separately. This chlorotype, more widely distributed than the other three, in both cultivated and wild olive, and occurring even in distant populations, was observed exclusively in male-sterile trees showing the same specific pollen anomaly. However, in the present study, no evidence was provided for a direct relationship between the occurrence of the cpDNA mutations and male sterility. It is suggested that the large geographic distribution of chlorotype V may be related to the high fruit production usually observed on male-sterile trees. These may be very attractive for birds which are fond of olive fruit and spread the stones efficiently. Probably for the same reason, people preserved male-sterile oleasters for long periods and, in several places, used male-sterile cultivars over large areas.

Received: 25 November 1998 / Accepted: 19 December 1998