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Next generation DNA sequencing technology delivers valuable genetic markers for the genomic orphan legume species, Bituminaria bituminosa

María Pazos-Navarro1, Mercedes Dabauza1, Enrique Correal2, Kelly Hanson3, Natasha Teakle45, Daniel Real567 and Matthew N Nelson5*

Author Affiliations

1 Departamento de Biotecnología y Protección de cultivos, Instituto Murciano de Investigación y Desarrollo Agrario y Alimentario (IMIDA), C/Mayor s/n, 30150-La Alberca, Murcia, Spain

2 Departamento de Recursos Naturales, IMIDA. C/Mayor s/n, 30150-La Alberca, Murcia, Spain

3 Australian Genome Research Facility, Level 5 Gehrmann Laboratories, Research Road, University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia

4 Centre for Ecohydrology, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

5 School of Plant Biology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

6 Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia, South Perth, WA 6151, Australia

7 Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

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BMC Genetics 2011, 12:104  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-12-104

Published: 15 December 2011



Bituminaria bituminosa is a perennial legume species from the Canary Islands and Mediterranean region that has potential as a drought-tolerant pasture species and as a source of pharmaceutical compounds. Three botanical varieties have previously been identified in this species: albomarginata, bituminosa and crassiuscula. B. bituminosa can be considered a genomic 'orphan' species with very few genomic resources available. New DNA sequencing technologies provide an opportunity to develop high quality molecular markers for such orphan species.


432,306 mRNA molecules were sampled from a leaf transcriptome of a single B. bituminosa plant using Roche 454 pyrosequencing, resulting in an average read length of 345 bp (149.1 Mbp in total). Sequences were assembled into 3,838 isotigs/contigs representing putatively unique gene transcripts. Gene ontology descriptors were identified for 3,419 sequences. Raw sequence reads containing simple sequence repeat (SSR) motifs were identified, and 240 primer pairs flanking these motifs were designed. Of 87 primer pairs developed this way, 75 (86.2%) successfully amplified primarily single fragments by PCR. Fragment analysis using 20 primer pairs in 79 accessions of B. bituminosa detected 130 alleles at 21 SSR loci. Genetic diversity analyses confirmed that variation at these SSR loci accurately reflected known taxonomic relationships in original collections of B. bituminosa and provided additional evidence that a division of the botanical variety bituminosa into two according to geographical origin (Mediterranean region and Canary Islands) may be appropriate. Evidence of cross-pollination was also found between botanical varieties within a B. bituminosa breeding programme.


B. bituminosa can no longer be considered a genomic orphan species, having now a large (albeit incomplete) repertoire of expressed gene sequences that can serve as a resource for future genetic studies. This experimental approach was effective in developing codominant and polymorphic SSR markers for application in diverse genetic studies. These markers have already given new insight into genetic variation in B. bituminosa, providing evidence that a division of the botanical variety bituminosa may be appropriate. This approach is commended to those seeking to develop useful markers for genomic orphan species.