Open Access Open Badges Research article

Loss of genetic diversity as a signature of apricot domestication and diffusion into the Mediterranean Basin

Hedia Bourguiba123, Jean-Marc Audergon2, Lamia Krichen3, Neila Trifi-Farah3, Ali Mamouni4, Samia Trabelsi5, Claudio D’Onofrio6, Bayram M Asma7, Sylvain Santoni1 and Bouchaib Khadari18*

Author Affiliations

1 INRA, UMR 1334 Amélioration Génétique et Adaptation des Plantes (AGAP), F-34398, Montpellier, France

2 INRA Centre PACA – UR1052 GAFL, Domaine St Maurice, BP94, 84143, Montfavet Cedex, France

3 Faculté des Sciences de Tunis, Laboratoire de Génétique Moléculaire, Immunologie et Biotechnologie, Campus Universitaire, 2092, El Manar, Tunisia

4 INRA, UR Amélioration des Plantes et Conservation des Ressources Phytogénétiques, Meknès, Morocco

5 Université de Blida, Chaire d’arboriculture, Blida, Algeria

6 Department of Fruit Science and Plant Protection of Woody Species “G. Scaramuzzi”, section of Fruit Science, University of Pisa, Via del Borghetto, 80, 56124, Pisa, Italy

7 Department of Biology, Inonu University, Malatya, 44280, Turkey

8 CBNMED, UMR 1334 AGAP, F-34398, Montpellier, France

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BMC Plant Biology 2012, 12:49  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-49

Published: 17 April 2012



Domestication generally implies a loss of diversity in crop species relative to their wild ancestors because of genetic drift through bottleneck effects. Compared to native Mediterranean fruit species like olive and grape, the loss of genetic diversity is expected to be more substantial for fruit species introduced into Mediterranean areas such as apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.), which was probably primarily domesticated in China. By comparing genetic diversity among regional apricot gene pools in several Mediterranean areas, we investigated the loss of genetic diversity associated with apricot selection and diffusion into the Mediterranean Basin.


According to the geographic origin of apricots and using Bayesian clustering of genotypes, Mediterranean apricot (207 genotypes) was structured into three main gene pools: ‘Irano-Caucasian’, ‘North Mediterranean Basin’ and ‘South Mediterranean Basin’. Among the 25 microsatellite markers used, only one displayed deviations from the frequencies expected under neutrality. Similar genetic diversity parameters were obtained within each of the three main clusters using both all SSR loci and only 24 SSR loci based on the assumption of neutrality. A significant loss of genetic diversity, as assessed by the allelic richness and private allelic richness, was revealed from the ‘Irano-Caucasian’ gene pool, considered as a secondary centre of diversification, to the northern and southwestern Mediterranean Basin. A substantial proportion of shared alleles was specifically detected when comparing gene pools from the ‘North Mediterranean Basin’ and ‘South Mediterranean Basin’ to the secondary centre of diversification.


A marked domestication bottleneck was detected with microsatellite markers in the Mediterranean apricot material, depicting a global image of two diffusion routes from the ‘Irano-Caucasian’ gene pool: North Mediterranean and Southwest Mediterranean. This study generated genetic insight that will be useful for management of Mediterranean apricot germplasm as well as genetic selection programs related to adaptive traits.