Understanding genetic diversity and population structure of a Poa pratensis worldwide collection through morphological, nuclear and chloroplast diversity analysis

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Abstract

Poa pratensis L. is a forage and turf grass species well adapted to a wide range of mesic to moist habitats. Due to its genome complexity little is known regarding evolution, genome composition and intraspecific phylogenetic relationships of this species. In the present study we investigated the morphological and genetic diversity of 33 P. pratensis accessions from 23 different countries using both nuclear and chloroplast molecular markers as well as flow cytometry of somatic tissues. This with the aim of shedding light on the genetic diversity and phylogenetic relationships of the collection that includes both cultivated and wild materi- als. Morphological characterization showed that the most relevant traits able to distinguish cultivated from wild forms were spring growth habit and leaf colour. The genome size analy- sis revealed high variability both within and between accessions in both wild and cultivated materials. The sequence analysis of the trnL-F chloroplast region revealed a low polymor- phism level that could be the result of the complex mode of reproduction of this species. In addition, a strong reduction of chloroplast SSR variability was detected in cultivated materi- als, where only two alleles were conserved out of the four present in wild accessions. Con- trarily, at nuclear level, high variability exist in the collection where the analysis of 11 SSR loci allowed the detection of a total of 91 different alleles. A Bayesian analysis performed on nuclear SSR data revealed that studied materials belong to two main clusters. While wild materials are equally represented in both clusters, the domesticated forms are mostly be- longing to cluster P2 which is characterized by lower genetic diversity compared to the clus- ter P1. In the Neighbour Joining tree no clear distinction was found between accessions with the exception of those from China and Mongolia that were clearly separated from all the others.

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Raggi, L., Bitocchi, E., Russi, L., Marconi, G., Sharbel, T. F., Veronesi, F., & Albertini, E. (2015). Understanding genetic diversity and population structure of a Poa pratensis worldwide collection through morphological, nuclear and chloroplast diversity analysis. PLoS ONE, 10(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0124709

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