Raquel Sánchez Pérez
Senior Research Scientist
Campus Universitario de Espinardo, 30100 Murcia, Spain
Telf.: +34 968396200, ext. 6116
The majority of the temperate fruit tree species belongs to the Rosaceae family, which encompasses about 100 different genera with more than 2000 species. Within this family, Prunus is one of the most important genera from an agronomical point of view producing more than 40 MMt worldwide of peaches and nectarines, apricots, almonds and sweet and sour cherries, cultivated in 1.7 MM ha.
Climate change is forcing not only fruit tree breeders to improve their efforts in developing new varieties that can be adapted and be economically competent in the new climate conditions, but also scientists to develop new and natural treatments that can compensate for the loss of chilling units that plants need to make an effective and yearly even fruit production.
It is known how important is the application of MAS in breeding programs as i.e. almond. In general, the global objective of a Prunus breeding program is obtaining new cultivars, self-compatible, of extra-late or extra-early blooming, productive, of high-quality fruit / kernels (i.e. sweet, firmness, low acidity etc.) with a chemical composition resulting in an excellent quality from the points of view sensorial, commercial, industrial and healthy. The knowledge of easy and suitable biotechnological tools is crucial for the development of molecular markers.
My research topic is the study of important agronomic traits within Prunus species to develop molecular markers to help breeders and growers in a climate change context. The main disadvantage of these species is their long juvenile period of three to four years, as occurs in almond, apricot, or even more in cherry etc.. These species only bloom once a year. Therefore, we have to wait two to three years to have statistical results when experiments are performed in reproductive organs such as flowers and fruits.
Due to these factors, the time necessary to obtain a new Prunus variety, e.g. almond, is approximately 10 years.
On the other hand, these plant species contain cyanogenic glucosides as prunasin and amygdalin that when cells are disrupted results in the release of hydrogen cyanide. We have recently elucidated the gene responsible for bitterness in almond by the sequencing of the almond genome, together with biochemistry and physiological studies. These results have been published in the prestigious scientific journal Science.
Evolution of fruit and seed traits during almond naturalization.
Publication date: 25-12-2021
Authors: Andrés Barea-Márquez,Francisco J. Ocaña-Calahorro,Rodrigo Balaguer-Romano,José María Gómez,Eugene W. Schupp,Raquel Sánchez-Pérez,Jesús Guillamón,Joanna Zhang,Rafael Rubio de Casa
Journal: Journal of Ecology
ABSTRACT: Cultivated plant species often naturalize and enter wild communities in a process known as feralization. To successfully feralize, crops must overcome ecological barriers and may undergo selection on certain traits, diverging phenotypically and genetically from their crop ancestors. In spite of the agronomic and eco-logical relevance of crop feralization, the eco- evolutionary dynamics driving it remain understudied.2. In this paper, we evaluated phenotypic and genotypic differentiation in fruit and seed traits during the naturalization of the almond tree (Prunus dulcis (Mill.) D.A. Webb) in SE Iberia and evaluated the potential role of natural selection in this process. To do so, we investigated the patterns of genetic divergence between cultivated and feral populations using functional (the cyanogenesis Sk gene) and neutral (17 SSR loci) markers and analysed morphological and biochemical traits in kernels of 342 individuals from 15 cultivated and 24 feral populations.3. We detected very little genetic differentiation in neutral markers between cul-tivated and feral populations. The majority of the observed genetic variation was due to differences within each type. Conversely, the recessive allele sk re-sponsible for seed toxicity was significantly more frequent in feral populations. Phenotypic differentiation between cultivated and naturalized almond popula-tions was also significant. Feral almond kernels were smaller and lighter, had denser and more resistant shells (endocarps) and more toxic seeds. Selection analyses indicated that these genetic and phenotypic patterns might be driven by directional selection on fruit and seed traits, potentially linked to defence against predation.
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