Genetic diversity in European chestnut populations by means of genomic and genic microsatellite markers
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Microsatellite or simple sequence repeats (SSRs) are one of the most used markers in population genetic studies. SSR markers developed from expressed sequence tags (EST) have proved useful to examine functional diversity in relation to adaptive variation. The information provided by both genomic and genic microsatellite markers could offer more accurate indication on the distribution of the genetic diversity among and within populations assuming different evolutionary drivers. This is the first study on chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.) in which the genetic diversity was evaluated by means of genomic (SSRs) and genic (EST-SSRs) microsatellite markers. We genotyped nine natural European chestnut populations distributed throughout representative areas of contrasting climatic conditions in the Mediterranean basin. Genomic SSRs showed significantly higher levels of diversity in terms of number of alleles, effective number of alleles, expected heterozygosity and level of polymorphism. Furthermore, there were significant differences in the level of differentiation among populations. The UPGMA analysis revealed different clustering pattern between populations, being the grouping according to geographic distances in the case of genomic SSRs and two differentiated groups based on the northern–southern distribution of the populations for EST-SSRs. Furthermore, the EST-SSR transferability among related Castanea and Quercus species was stated. Our results confirm that combining genomic SSRs and EST-SSRs is a useful tool to give complementary information to explain the genetic and adaptive diversity in chestnut.