Genetic diversity and gene flow between wild, cultivated and weedy forms of Beta vulgaris L. (Chenopodiaceae), assessed by RFLP and microsatellite markers
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Beets belonging to the species Beta vulgaris L. can be found in crop, wild and weedy forms, all of which are interfertile. We studied the intra-specific genetic relationships of about 300 individuals from 54 populations of various French geographic origins using nuclear molecular markers (five single-copy RFLP loci and one microsatellite locus). The patterns of diversity were congruent for both types of markers. Genetic diversity in wild beets appeared to be high, both in term of allele number and observed heterozygosity, whereas the narrowness of the cultivated-beet gene pool was confirmed. Genetic distances between all forms showed that weed beets in northern France are intermediates between sugar beet and inland wild beets in south-western France. This analysis allowed us to infer the paternal origin of weed beets and furthermore, is in agreement with a previous study which focused on their maternal origin: weed beet infesting sugar-beet fields originated from accidental and recurrent hybridization between cultivated lines and ruderal inland wild beets during the production of commercial seeds in south-western France. Inland wild beets are genetically close to Mediterranean coastal wild beets, but differ from other coastal forms (from Biscay, Brittany and northern France). The study of gene flow in the beet complex contributes to the risk assessment of transgenic beets.
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