Chiles important reservoirs of genetic diversity

June 21st, 2009 - 11:59 am ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 21 (ANI): A new research has provided insights into the domestication of chiles and determined that they are important reservoirs of genetic diversity that are quite significant for conserving biodiversity.

Capsicum annuum is one of five domesticated species of chiles and is notable as one of the primary components, along with maize, of the diet of Mesoamerican peoples.

However, little has been known regarding the original location of domestication of C. annuum, the number of times it was domesticated, and the genetic diversity present in wild relatives.

To answer these questions, Dr. Seung-Chul Kim and his team examined DNA sequence variation and patterns at three nuclear loci in a broad selection of semiwild and domesticated individuals.

Dr. Kim and his team found a large amount of diversity in individuals from the Yucatan Peninsula, making this a center of diversity for chiles and possibly a location of C. annuum domestication.

Previously, the eastern part of central Mexico had been considered to be the primary center of domestication of C. annuum.

On the basis of patterns in the sequence data, Dr. Kim and his team hypothesize that chiles were independently domesticated several times from geographically distant wild progenitors by different prehistoric cultures in Mexico, in contrast to maize and beans which appear to have been domesticated only once.

Geographical separation among cultivated populations was reflected in DNA sequence variation.

This separation suggests that seed exchange among farmers from distant locations is not significantly influencing genetic diversity, in contrast to maize and beans seeds, which are traded by farmers across long distances.

Less genetic diversification was seen in wild populations of C. annuum from distant locales, perhaps as a result of long-distance seed dispersal by birds and mammals.

Across the three loci studied, Dr. Kim and colleagues found an average reduction in diversity of 10 percent in domesticated individuals compared with the semiwild individuals.

Domesticated chiles in traditional agricultural habits, however, harbor unique gene pools and serve as important reservoirs of genetic diversity important for conserving biodiversity. (ANI)

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