A collection of 60 accessions of Prunus avium L. from the sweet cherry germplasm repository of the Campania Region in Italy, together with seven reference accessions of P. avium, were screened to estimate genetic diversity and to identify genetic relationships among accessions using a set of 28 microsatellite (SSR) markers. Of the 28 primer pairs used, 27 generated polymorphic amplification products and one was found to be monomorphic. Between two and 14 alleles were revealed for the polymorphic loci, and the expected heterozygosity (He) ranged from 0.031 to 0.822. The total probability of identity was 5.59 × 10-16. The population structure was investigated using a model-based inference framework. Among the 67 accessions studied, the presence of seven groups was inferred using genetic data, without using prior information on the origin of the accessions. The probabilities of assignment of individual accessions to cultivated gene pools with proportions of membership > 0.90 indicated that two gene pools accounted for the genomic origin of 46% of all the P. avium accessions sampled. A dendrogram was generated using the unweighted pair group method with arithmetic averages (UPGMA) based on a ‘Nei72’ genetic distance analysis. This dendrogram classified all 60 ancient sweet cherry genotypes into one well-defined group that revealed the autochthonous character of most of the varieties cultivated in the Campania Region of Italy. The information obtained from SSR fingerprinting will be useful for optimising the conservation of cherry genetic resources present in the Campania Region. Moreover, this approach can be applied to optimise the conservation of local genetic resources of other fruit tree species.
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