• Medicago sativa;
  • apomixis;
  • diplospory;
  • flower colour;
  • RAPD fingerprints;
  • RFLP markers


Apomixis involves the parthenogenetic development of apomeiotic eggs. It has the potential of cloning plants through seed, and thus furnishes a unique opportunity in breeding of allogamous sexual species, such as alfalfa, for developing superior cultivars with permanently fixed heterosis. Apomixis as a whole has not been detected in the genus Medicago, but components of apomixis have been reported. The formation of unreduced eggs through diplosporic meiosis was documented in a diploid mutant of M. saliva ssp. falcata (L.) Arcang., named PG-F9. Since in facultative apomictic species non-reductional meiosis and parthenogenesis could be tightly associated processes, a progeny test based on morphological trait and molecular marker evaluation was carried out to verify the occurrence of parthenogenesis in PG-F9. Morphological traits such as leaf shape, stipule form, stem pigmentation and flower colour were shown to be effective in the preliminary screening of progenies and most of the plants were classified as non-maternal (i.e. from sexual reproduction). Molecular investigations by means of random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) fingerprint and heterozygous restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) loci detection conducted on the progenies classified morphologically as maternal allowed two plants, molecularly similar but not identical to PG-F9, to be discovered. Owing to the high number of molecular markers conserved as in the mother plant, and because of the great discriminating efficiency of the primers and probes used, these progeny plants could most likely be generated through parthenogenesis of diplosporic eggs. In fact, the extraordinary preservation of maternal morphological traits and genomic loci over one generation may be explained only if apomictic reproductive events rarely took place in PG-F9.