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Insights into the genetic diversity and population structure of Rhododendron brachycarpum (Ericaceae) in East Asia as characterized by SSR markers


Rhododendron brachycarpum is an ecologically important tree species with a narrow, fragmented geographic range in East Asia. R. brachycarpum is distributed primarily in Korea and Japan, with two small isolated populations in the Russian Far East. We obtained 124 samples from seven populations of R. brachycarpum, representing all geographical regions of its entire natural range, and we utilized microsatellite markers to estimate the level of genetic variation within and between populations. A total of 200 alleles based on 14 nuclear microsatellites loci were identified. High diversity (He = 0.556–0.626) was observed in populations from Korea and Japan. In contrast, in peripheral populations from Russia diversity was quite low (He = 0.100–0.369) with a high coefficient of inbreeding (FIS = 0.471–0.526). Strong population differentiation (FST = 0.356) and clear distinction among the geographical groups (FCT = 0.227) were revealed. Bayesian clustering and principal coordinate analyses indicated that two Russian populations, Sikhote-Alin and Iturup Island, represent extremes of two different migration routes, with one derived from the mainland and one from Japan.

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Data (microsatellite genotypes) available in Supplemental data.


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We are grateful to Mikhail Gromyko for the help with collecting of samples from Sikhote-Alin Reserve, to Evgeniy Tabalykin for the material from Iturup Island, Hee-Young Gil and students of Sungkyunkwan University for the samples from the BDDG of South Korea and Svetlana Semerikova for the sample from the Mustila Arboretum. We also thank anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript. This study was performed within the frameworks of a state contract with the Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology, Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, and partly supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (project no. 20-04-00417 A)

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Correspondence to Maria A. Polezhaeva.

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Handling Editor: Ying-xun Qiu.

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Online Resource 1. Detailed information on genotypes of 98 individuals of Rhododendron brachycarpum at 14 loci.

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Polezhaeva, M.A., Marchuk, E.A., Modorov, M.V. et al. Insights into the genetic diversity and population structure of Rhododendron brachycarpum (Ericaceae) in East Asia as characterized by SSR markers. Plant Syst Evol 307, 9 (2021).

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  • Biogeography
  • Genetic diversity
  • Microsatellites
  • Northeast Asia
  • Rhododendron brachycarpum