Detection of haplotypic variation and natural hybridization in halepensis-complex pine species using chloroplast simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers


G. G. Vendramin Fax: + 39 55 486604; E-mail:


In this investigation, nine chloroplast, paternally inherited simple-sequence repeat (cpSSR) markers were used to describe genetic variation of three closely related species belonging to the halepensis complex (Pinus halepensis Ait., P. brutia Mill. and P. eldarica Medwed.). Both the infinite allele model (IAM) and stepwise-mutation model (SMM) have been applied to the analysis of the genetic structure of natural populations and the geographical distribution of haplotypic variation. SMM-based estimators performed better than IAM-based estimators for large values of within-population diversity and divergence between population pairs. Overall, large haplotypic variation and high genetic divergence were detected for both P. halepensis and P. brutia. The genetic structures of the three species are discussed with consideration to the evolutionary and ecological characteristics of these species. Three highly informative markers showing size variants distinguishing P. halepensis from the other two species were used to provide more information on the occurrence of natural hybridization in a Turkish sympatric population of P. halepensis and P. brutia. Strong evidence of introgression of ‘halepensis’ chloroplast haplotypes into P. brutia seeds (but not vice versa) was detected. According to previous evidence from controlled crossings, matings between the above species seem to be successful only when P. halepensis is the pollen donor and P. brutia is the female parent (but not reciprocally). The existence of unidirectional gene flow in sympatric populations confirms previous evidence about partial reproductive barriers between P. halepensis and P. brutia. Implications of the above evidence for the evolutionary history of these species are discussed.