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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Genetic diversity in Capsicum baccatum is significantly influenced by its ecogeographical distribution

Elena Albrecht1, Dapeng Zhang2, Anne Deslattes Mays1, Robert A Saftner3 and John R Stommel4*

Author Affiliations

1 Keygene Inc., 155 Gibbs Street, Suite 405, Rockville, MD 20850, USA

2 United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Plant Sciences Institute, Sustainable Perennial Crops Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA

3 United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Plant Sciences Institute, Food Quality Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA

4 United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Plant Sciences Institute, Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA

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BMC Genetics 2012, 13:68  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-13-68

Published: 6 August 2012

Abstract

Background

The exotic pepper species Capsicum baccatum, also known as the aji or Peruvian hot pepper, is comprised of wild and domesticated botanical forms. The species is a valuable source of new genes useful for improving fruit quality and disease resistance in C. annuum sweet bell and hot chile pepper. However, relatively little research has been conducted to characterize the species, thus limiting its utilization. The structure of genetic diversity in a plant germplasm collection is significantly influenced by its ecogeographical distribution. Together with DNA fingerprints derived from AFLP markers, we evaluated variation in fruit and plant morphology of plants collected across the species native range in South America and evaluated these characters in combination with the unique geography, climate and ecology at different sites where plants originated.

Results

The present study mapped the ecogeographic distribution, analyzed the spatial genetic structure, and assessed the relationship between the spatial genetic pattern and the variation of morphological traits in a diverse C. baccatum germplasm collection spanning the species distribution. A combined diversity analysis was carried out on the USDA-ARS C. baccatum germplasm collection using data from GIS, morphological traits and AFLP markers. The results demonstrate that the C. baccatum collection covers wide geographic areas and is adapted to divergent ecological conditions in South America ranging from cool Andean highland to Amazonia rainforest. A high level of morphological diversity was evident in the collection, with fruit weight the leading variable. The fruit weight distribution pattern was compatible to AFLP-based clustering analysis for the collection. A significant spatial structure was observed in the C. baccatum gene pool. Division of the domesticated germplasm into two major regional groups (Western and Eastern) was further supported by the pattern of spatial population structure.

Conclusions

The results reported improve our understanding of the combined effects of geography, ecology and human intervention on organization of the C. baccatum genepool. The results will facilitate utilization of C. baccatum for crop improvement and species conservation by providing a framework for efficient germplasm collection management and guidance for future plant acquisitions.