Evaluation of the extent of genetic variability among Theobroma cacao accessions using RAPD and RFLP markers
Random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) markers were used to evaluate genetic relationships within the Theobroma cacao species and to assess the organization of its genetic diversity. Genetic variability was estimated with 18 primers and 43 RFLP probes on 155 cocoa trees belonging to different morphological groups and coming from various geographic origins. The majority of the RFLP probes issued from low-copy DNA sequences. On the basis of on the genetic distance matrices, the two molecular methods gave related estimates of the genetic relationship between genotypes. Although an influence of cocoa morphological groups and geographical origins of trees was observed, a lack of gene differentiation characterized the T. cacao accessions studied. The continuous RFLP variability observed within the species may reflect the hybridization and introgressions between trees of different origins. Nevertheless, the Nacional type was detected to be genetically specific and different from well-known types such as Forastero, Criollo and Trinitario. Some of those genotypes were characterized by a low heterozygosity rate and may constitute the original Nacional pool. These results also provide information for the constitution of a cocoa tree core collection.
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