ISSR markers show differentiation among Italian populations of Asparagus acutifolius L
© Sica et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2005
Received: 23 September 2004
Accepted: 18 March 2005
Published: 18 March 2005
Asparagus acutifolius L. is a dioecious and native plant species, widely distributed in the Mediterranean Basin. It is known for its fine flavour and could represent an important resource for cultivation programs in desert areas. Few molecular studies have been performed on this species. In the present paper, the ISSR technique was employed to study genetic diversity in Italian A. acutifolius.
Twenty-three primers produced a total of 228 polymorphic fragments used to evaluate genetic variation. FST (0.4561) and Theta B (0.4776) values indicate a wide genetic variation among the samples examined. The distance UPGMA tree grouped together the genotypes strictly according to their geographical origin, showing that each sample is genetically structured and can be considered a distinct population. AMOVA analysis further confirmed genetic structuring of the populations. Population-specific fragments were also detected.
The results suggest that ISSR markers are useful in distinguishing the populations of A. acutifolius according to geographical origin, and confirm the importance of genetic studies for designing germplasm conservation strategies.
The availability of a variety of DNA markers, such as restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP), amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP), random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD), simple sequence repeat (SSR) and intersimple sequence repeat (ISSR) has enabled researchers to investigate genetic diversity among various plant species across natural populations [1–5]. Among these, PCR-based techniques of random multilocus analysis (RAPD, AFLP, ISSR) have been successfully used in genotyping, genome mapping and phylogenetic studies in horticultural crops such as strawberry , soybean , and potato .
Local populations of traditional cultivars provide a valuable resource for plant breeding as well as for the preservation of genetic diversity . The exploration, evaluation, and conservation in situ and ex situ of genetic diversity in natural populations is imperative to guarantee sustainable development .
Asparagus acutifolius L. (Liliaceae) is a native, perennial plant species widely distributed throughout the Mediterranean areas, whose flowers are classified as dioecious and are mainly bee-pollinated; it generally does not reproduce by self-pollination. It grows in bushy and semi-dry places, sunny or semi-shade, mainly on limestone.
This species is known for its strong taste compared to the cultivated A. officinalis and does not require rich soils for cultivation; for these reasons, it could be an economically important resource for the recovery of arid rural areas where controlled introduced programs could be achieved.
To date, there is little information available on the genetic variability of this species. At present, the most widely studied species is A. officinalis, for which many molecular markers have been characterized (RAPD, RFLP, AFLP) . The few molecular data regarding A. acutifolius are drawn from RAPD analyses  and the identification of microsatellite loci . The ISSR technique is similar to that for RAPD, except that ISSR primers consist of a di- or trinucleotide simple sequence repeat with a 5' or 3' anchoring sequence of 1–3 nucleotides. Compared with RAPD primers, the ISSR primers sequence is usually larger, allowing for a higher primer annealing temperature which results in greater band reproducibiliy than RAPD markers . They have been successfully used to assess genetic variation in plants such as citrus , Viola pubescens , potato , and Oryza .
In this study we used ISSR markers to analyse the genetic diversity of Italian A. acutifolius collecting samples in eight different scattered rural areas: six continental and one each from the Italian islands of Sardinia and Sicily.
Populations of A. acutifolius.
Caserta Vecchia (Caserta)
Colli al Volturno (Isernia)
South- west, sunny
Quercus, Rubus, Genista
Vizzini (Catania, Sicily)
ISSR primers useful for the amplification of the eight populations of A. acutifolius.
Genetic variability among the populations of A. acutifolius.
Mean ± SD
0.1512 ± 0.1887
0.1539 ± 0.1940
0.1489 ± 0.1875
0.1625 ± 0.1964
0.1173 ± 0.1744
0.1180 ± 0.1771
0.1618 ± 0.1903
0.1259 ± 0.1842
Number of specific bands
3 M 9 P
1 M 3 P
Mean ± SD
0.2618 ± 0.0240
0.2859 ± 0.0155
0.1424 ± 0.0084
0.1619 ± 0.0026
0.4766 ± 0.0173
A high level of genetic variation was observed using ISSR markers, with 100% polymorphic loci at the species level. The highest number of polymorphic loci (51.75%) was exhibited in the Sassari and the lowest (35.09%) in the Recco samples.
Genetic structuring was evident due to the detection of specific bands in each sample examined. Spoleto and Caserta samples showed one and three fixed specific fragments, respectively, found to be statistically significant (P < 0.0001). For the other samples, 27 ISSR specific polymorphic fragments were detected, with a varying degree of statistical significance ranging from P < 0.0400 to P < 0.0001.
Genetic (below diagonal) and geographic (above diagonal) distances among the eight populations of A. acutifolius.
The values of gene diversity are summarized in Table 3a. For some primers, the value was 0.0000, and the highest value (0.3503) was found for the primer W814 in the Catania sample. This explains the high standard deviation values observed.
As summarized in Table 3b, the total variation (HT) was 0.2618 ± 0.0240 and the average variation within samples (average HS) was 0.1424 ± 0.0084. The mean diversity among the samples (DST) was 0.1194. The fixation index FST = (HT-HS)/HT was 0.4561, indicating a reduction of genetic diversity of about 45%. The Theta-B value obtained by Hickory analysis is an estimate of FST under a random-effects model of population sampling. Its mean value is 0.4766 ± 0.0173; the HT and HS values are, respectively, 0.2859 ± 0.0115 and 0.1619 ± 0.0026 showing that there is a general agreement between the results obtained using the two different approaches.
ISSR markers can be used in population genetic studies of plant species as they effectively detect very low levels of genetic variation . They also may have potential for analysing biogeographic patterns among populations of a single plant species. In this study, we have shown that these markers revealed genetic variation among geographically separated samples of A. acutifolius in an Italian population. ISSRs also revealed diversity within each sub-population. The results obtained are in accordance with the principle that the number of individuals used to estimate average heterozygosity can be very small if a large number of loci is studied .
The gene diversity values (Table 3a) ranged from 0.0525 (TE-Recco) to 0.3503 (W814-Catania). As expected, some primer-sample combinations showed no diversity (0.0) for two reasons: i) the combination primer-sample produced the same amplification pattern in all the samples (primer 4, Livorno and Recco; primer 8, Recco; primer W814, Livorno and Recco); ii) the combination primer-sample produced no measurable fragments (primer 8564, Catania; primer W844, Lecce and Livorno). These primers were not excluded from the analysis because in some cases they produced sample-specific fragments (e.g.: primer 8564 in Caserta and Lecce; W844 in Catania and Recco; primer 8 in Caserta, Catania, Isernia, Sassari, and Spoleto).
The fixation index is 0.4561, which indicates a substantial reduction of genetic diversity (about 45%), probably due to the high genetic isolation of samples analysed. The FST and the Theta-B value (0.4766) demonstrated a very great genetic differentiation among samples, possibly caused by random genetic drift. Further statistical support to the genetic structuring of the samples examined comes from the AMOVA analysis. Despite the continuous distribution of A. acutifolius, the eight samples represent genetically differentiated populations.
In each population it was possible to identify ISSR specific fragments. As shown in Table 3a, the Caserta and Spoleto populations had specific fixed fragments that distinguished them from all others. Although the Isernia specific fragments are not statistically significant (P > 0.05), population-specific fragments were detected for all the other populations, with varying levels of intra-population polymorphism, ranging from 0.147 to 0.764. Thus, we have identified reproducible markers that distinguish the geographical origin of the A. acutifolius populations.
The high degree of genetic differentiation is confirmed by the UPGMA tree topology, in which all accessions from the same population grouped together (Fig. 2). The populations showed genetic distances ranging from 0.0916 and 0.1821 with the exception of the Caserta population that is more distant from the others (from 0.2421 with Catania to 0.2865 with Recco, Table 4). This result is probably due to the high number of specific ISSR fragments found in the Caserta population (12, including monomorphic and polymorphic) and can be attributed to genetic drift. In particular, the high distance between Caserta and Isernia (0.2573) is unexpected because of the short geographical distance separating the regions, and could explain the absence of correlation between genetic and geographical data matrices obtained with the Mantel test. The high genetic structuring of the eight populations shows that despite the continuous distribution of A. acutifolius throughout the Italian peninsula, there is poor gene flow through the isolates. The high genetic differentiation of the A. acutifolius populations examined might be attributed to the kind of pollinators (mainly bees) that can act at short distances, preventing the gene flow, and to the effects of anthropogenic habitat fragmentation.
The results obtained using ISSR markers are in agreement with the RAPD analysis that also identified population-specific fragments in different Italian A. acutifolius populations .
Information about the spatial organization of genetic variability is essential for the conservation of genetic resources . Our results provide an important contribution toward confirming that A. acutifolius has well-differentiated populations, despite their morphological low variability. These results show that to maintain genetic diversity within A. acutifolius it is necessary to conserve many populations.
A total of 109 samples of A. acutifolius collected in the eight different locations in Italy (listed in Table 1 and showed in Fig. 1) were used for the analysis. Although they are only a tiny fraction of the A. acutifolius Mediterranean distribution, they are representative of the Italian population.
DNA was extracted from silica gel dried cladodes following the Doyle and Doyle protocol .
A total of 42 ISSR primers were tested on the eight populations of A. acutifolius. The polymerase chain reaction was conducted in a 9600 Perkin Elmer Thermal Cycler using the following reaction conditions: 2–5 ng DNA, 1.5 mM MgCl2, 0.2 mM dNTPs, 0.6 μM primer, 1.5 UE Taq polymerase (BIOLINE) and 1X Taq DNA polymerase buffer, in a total volume of 25 μL. The amplification programme was 1.5 min at 94°C; 35 × 40 s at 94°C, 45 s at the primer annealing optimal temperature (see Table 2), 1.5 min at 72°C; 45 s at 94°C, 45 s at the annealing temperature, 5 min at 72°C.
Following PCR, the samples were loaded onto a 1.5% agarose gel in TAE 1X buffer, stained with ethidium bromide. Additionally, 100 bp ladder (Promega) and negative and positive controls were loaded and run at constant voltage (150 V) for 2 hours. After running, the gels were UV visualised and recorded using a Kodak Digital Science dS1D DC40/DC120 Camera. To verify the repeatability of the results, each DNA extraction, PCR amplification, and gel running was repeated twice.
Unequivocally scorable and consistently reproducible amplified DNA fragments were transformed into binary character matrix (1 = presence, 0 = absence).
Genetic variation within and among sub-populations was analysed on the basis of the banding profile using various parameters such as percentage polymorphism (P), total heterozygosity (HT), heterozygosity within population (HS), diversity among populations (DST), fixation index (FST), and genetic distance [18, 22–24], using POPGENE software . Since ISSR are dominant markers, data were also analysed using Hickory software  based on a Bayesian method that does not require prior decisions about the breeding system and Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium; the analysis was conducted under the f-free model.
AMOVA analysis, implemented in Arlequin , was conducted to document the degree of genetic structure among sub-populations.
The Mantel test of genetic and geographic distances was carried out to evaluate the correlation between the two data matrices.
The UPGMA tree was generated using the PAUP*4.0 software , and Bootstrap analysis was conducted using 1000 replicates.
The Authors are grateful to Mrs. Terracciano for technical support, and to Prof. A. Parente and Dr. A. Farina for help in plant field collection. This work was supported by a SCRIGNO grant from the National Research Council, Italy.
- Archak S, Gaikwad AB, Gautam D, Rao EVVB, Swamy KRM, Karihaloo JL: DNA fingerprinting of Indian cashew (Anacardium occidentale L.) varieties using RAPD and ISSR techniques. Euphytica. 2003, 230: 397-404. 10.1023/A:1023074617348.View Article
- Deshpande AU, Apte GS, Bahulikar RA, Lagu MD, Kulkarni BG, Suresh HS, Singh NP, Rao MKV, Gupta VS, Pant A, Ranjekar PK: Genetic diversity across natural populations of three montane plant species from the Western Ghats, India revealed by intersimple sequence repeats. Mol Ecol. 2001, 10: 2397-2408. 10.1046/j.0962-1083.2001.01379.x.View ArticlePubMed
- Knox EB, Palmer JD: The chloroplast genome arrangement of Lobelia thuliniana (Lobeliaceae): expansion of the inverted repeat in an ancestor of the Companulales. Plant Syst Evol. 1999, 214: 49-64. 10.1007/BF00985731.View Article
- Gabrielsen TM, Brochmann C: Sex after all: high levels of diversity detected in the arctic clonal plant Saxifraga cernua using RAPD markers. Mol Ecol. 1998, 7: 1701-1708. 10.1046/j.1365-294x.1998.00503.x.View Article
- Wolfe AD, Xiang Q, Kephart SR: Assessing hybridization in natural populations of Penstemon (Scrophulariaceae) using hypervariable intersimple sequence repeat (ISSR) bands. Mol Ecol. 1998, 7: 1107-1125. 10.1046/j.1365-294x.1998.00425.x.View ArticlePubMed
- Korbin M, Kuras A, Zurawicz E: Fruit plant germplasm characterisation using molecular markers generated in RAPD and ISSR-PCR. Cell Mol Biol Lett. 2002, 7: 785-794.PubMed
- Ferreira AR, Foutz KR, Keim P: Soybean genetic map of RAPD markers assigned to an existing scaffold RFLP map. J Hered. 2000, 91: 392-396. 10.1093/jhered/91.5.392.View ArticlePubMed
- Prevost A, Wilkinson MJ: A new system of comparing PCR primers applied to ISSR fingerprinting of potato cultivars. Theor Appl Genet. 1999, 98: 107-112. 10.1007/s001220051046.View Article
- Kölliker R, Herrmann D, Boller B, Widmer F: Swiss Mattenklee landraces, a distinct and diverse genetic resource of red clover (Trifolium pratense L.). Theor Appl Genet. 2003, 107: 306-315. 10.1007/s00122-003-1248-6.View ArticlePubMed
- Nevo E: Genetic diversity in wild cereals: regional and local studies and their bearing on conservation ex situ and in situ. Genet Resour Crop Evol. 1998, 45: 355-370. 10.1023/A:1008689304103.View Article
- Spada A, Caporali E, Marziani G, Portaluppi P, Restivo FM, Tassi F, Falavigna A: A genetic map of Asparagus officinalis based on integrated RFLP, RAPD and AFLP molecular markers. Theor Appl Genet. 1998, 97: 1083-1089. 10.1007/s001220050995.View Article
- Aceto S, Parente A, Aliotta G, Rosati A, Gaudio L: Utilizzazione della tecnica RAPD-PCR per l'analisi della biodiversità in popolazioni di Asparagus acutifolius L. Italus Hortus. 2001, 9: 49-52.
- Aceto S, Sica M, Gamba G, Montieri S, Farina A, Gaudio L: Isolation and characterization of microsatellite loci from Asparagus acutifolius (Liliaceae). Mol Ecol Notes. 2003, 3: 242-243. 10.1046/j.1471-8286.2003.00411.x.View Article
- Culley TM, Wolfe AD: Population genetic structure of the cleistogamous plant species Viola pubescens Aiton (Violaceae), as indicated by allozyme and ISSR molecular markers. Heredity. 2000, 86: 545-556. 10.1046/j.1365-2540.2001.00875.x.View Article
- Fang DQ, Roose ML: Identification of closely related citrus cultivars with inter-simple sequence repeat markers. Theor Appl Genet. 1997, 95: 408-417. 10.1007/s001220050577.View Article
- Qian W, Ge S, Hong D-Y: Genetic variation within and among populations of a wild rice Oryza granulata from China detected by RAPD and ISSR markers. Theor Appl Genet. 2001, 102: 440-449. 10.1007/s001220051665.View Article
- Huang JC, Sun M: Genetic diversity and relationships of sweetpotato and its wild relatives in Ipomea series Batatas (Convolvulaceae) as revealed by inter-simple sequence repeat (ISSR) and restriction analysis of chloroplast DNA. Theor Appl Genet. 2000, 100: 1050-1060. 10.1007/s001220051386.View Article
- Nei M: Estimation of average heterozigosity and genetic distance from a small number of individuals. Genetics. 1978, 89: 583-590.PubMed CentralPubMed
- Zietkiewicz E, Rafalski A, Labuda D: Genome fingerprinting by simple sequence repeat (SSR)-anchored polymerase chain reaction amplification. Genomics. 1994, 20: 176-183. 10.1006/geno.1994.1151.View ArticlePubMed
- Bawa KS: Effects of deforestation and forest fragmentation on genetic diversity in tropical tree populations. Genetic Conservation and Production of Tropical Forest Seed. Edited by: Drysdale RM, John SET, Yapa AC. 1993, ASEAN-Canada Forest Tree Seed Center, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 10-16.
- Doyle JJ, Doyle JL: Isolation of plant DNA from fresh tissue. Focus. 1987, 12: 13-15.
- Nei M: Genetic distance between populations. Am Nat. 1972, 106: 283-292. 10.1086/282771.View Article
- Nei M: Analysis of gene diversity in subdivided populations. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1973, 70: 3321-3323.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMed
- Nei M: F-statistics and analysis of gene diversity in subdivided populations. Ann Hum Genet. 1977, 41: 225-233.View ArticlePubMed
- Yeh FC, Yang R, Boyle T: POPGENE Version 1.32. Ag/For Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Centre, University of Alberta and Center for International Forestry Research. 1997
- Holsinger KE, Lewis PO: Hickory: A package for analysis of population genetic data v.1.0. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, USA. 2003
- Schneider S, Roessli D, Excoffier L: Arlequin ver. 2.000: A software for population genetics data analysis. Genetics and Biometry Laboratory, University of Geneva, Switzerland. 2000
- Swofford DL: PAUP*. Phylogenetic Analysis Using Parsimony (*and other methods). Version 4. Sinauer Associated, Sunderland, Massachusetts. 1998
This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.