RFLP diversity and relationships among traditional European maize populations
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Given the large extent of hybrid cultivation, the importance of conserving the diversity of crop genetic resources has given birth to numerous collections of old races. In the present paper, we conduct a molecular characterisation of a large collection of 488 European maize populations using the bulk RFLP analysis. The analysis of 23 RFLP loci showed a high allelic richness of 11.5 alleles per locus. Populations from eastern Europe (Poland, Austria, Germany, etc.) showed the lowest genetic diversity, a lower number of unique alleles and a higher percentage of fixed loci than populations from southern Europe. In fact, genetic diversity appeared higher in Southern regions where the first maize populations are thought to have been introduced. Molecular classification based on Rogers' distance (i.e. alleles frequencies) allowed us to distinguish three main clusters which were highly consistent with geographic origins. A Northeastern cluster grouped together early or intermediate populations from Northeastern countries and the Balkans, a southeastern cluster joined late and partially dent populations from Greece and Italy, and, a southwestern cluster was made up of early flint populations from northern Spain, Portugal and the Pyrenees. A correlation between allelic frequencies at some loci and latitude and/or longitude was observed. Such tendencies may reflect the direction of gene flow between different races of maize: for instance, North American (Northern flint) and Caribbean populations were introduced, respectively, to northern and southern Europe, in the past.
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