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Keywords:

  • genetic diversity;
  • heavy metal tolerance;
  • RAPD;
  • Silene paradoxa

Abstract

Metal-contaminated sites can occur naturally in serpentine outcrops or as consequence of anthropogenic activities, such as mining deposits, aerial fallout from smelters and industrial processes. Serpentine outcrops are characterized by high levels of nickel, cobalt and chromium and present a typical vegetation which includes endemisms and plants which also live in uncontaminated soils. These latter metal-tolerant populations provide the opportunity to investigate the first steps in the differentiation of plant populations under severe selection pressure and to select plants to be used in the phytoremediation of industrially contaminated soils. In this report eight populations of Silene paradoxa L. (Caryophyllaceae) growing in copper mine deposits, in serpentine outcrops or in noncontaminated soil in central Italy, were analysed using random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers to investigate the pattern of genetic variation. The genetic diversity observed in populations at copper mine deposits was found to be at least as high as that of the neighbouring serpentine populations. Analysis of molecular variance (amova) of the RAPD markers gave high statistical significance to the groupings of populations according: (i) with their geographical location; and (ii) with the metals present in the soil of origin (copper vs. nickel), indicating that RAPD markers detected a polymorphism related to the soil contamination by copper. Finally, two RAPD bands exclusive to copper-tolerant populations were identified.