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Biological Sciences


Background: The genus Arachis is native to a region that includes Central Brazil and neighboring countries. Little is known about the genetic variability of the Brazilian cultivated peanut (Arachis hypogaea, genome AABB) germplasm collection at the DNA level. The understanding of the genetic diversity of cultivated and wild species of peanut (Arachis spp.) is essential to develop strategies of collection, conservation and use of the germplasm in variety development. The identity of the ancestor progenitor species of cultivated peanut has also been of great interest. Several species have been suggested as putative AA and BB genome donors to allotetraploid A. hypogaea. Microsatellite or SSR (Simple Sequence Repeat) markers are co-dominant, multiallelic, and highly polymorphic genetic markers, appropriate for genetic diversity studies. Microsatellite markers may also, to some extent, support phylogenetic inferences. Here we report the use of a set of microsatellite markers, including newly developed ones, for phylogenetic inferences and the analysis of genetic variation of accessions of A. hypogea and its wild relatives.

Results: A total of 67 new microsatellite markers (mainly TTG motif) were developed for Arachis. Only three of these markers, however, were polymorphic in cultivated peanut. These three new markers plus five other markers characterized previously were evaluated for number of alleles per locus and gene diversity using 60 accessions of A. hypogaea. Genetic relationships among these 60 accessions and a sample of 36 wild accessions representative of section Arachis were estimated using allelic variation observed in a selected set of 12 SSR markers. Results showed that the Brazilian peanut germplasm collection has considerable levels of genetic diversity detected by SSR markers. Similarity groups for A. hypogaea accessions were established, which is a useful criteria for selecting parental plants for crop improvement. Microsatellite marker transferability was up to 76% for species of the section Arachis, but only 45% for species from the other eight Arachis sections tested. A new marker (Ah-041) presented a 100% transferability and could be used to classify the peanut accessions in AA and non-AA genome carriers.

Conclusion: The level of polymorphism observed among accessions of A. hypogaea analyzed with newly developed microsatellite markers was low, corroborating the accumulated data which show that cultivated peanut presents a relatively reduced variation at the DNA level. A selected panel of SSR markers allowed the classification of A. hypogaea accessions into two major groups. The identification of similarity groups will be useful for the selection of parental plants to be used in breeding programs. Marker transferability is relatively high between accessions of section Arachis. The possibility of using microsatellite markers developed for one species in genetic evaluation of other species greatly reduces the cost of the analysis, since the development of microsatellite markers is still expensive and time consuming. The SSR markers developed in this study could be very useful for genetic analysis of wild species of Arachis, including comparative genome mapping, population genetic structure and phylogenetic inferences among species.

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