Genetic and chemical diversity of citron (Citrus medica L.) based on nuclear and cytoplasmic markers and leaf essential oil composition
Native to southeast Asia, the citron (Citrus medica L.) was the first citrus fruit to be introduced to the Mediterranean area, in the third century BC, and remained its only citrus representative until the tenth century. The citron was used for its aroma – stemming from its essential oils in leaves and fruit peels – and as symbols in the Jewish religion. Subsequently, the cultivation of citron was extended significantly, peaking in the nineteenth century, when its fruits were used in cosmetics and confectioneries. The objective of this study was to examine the genetic diversity of the Mediterranean citron with regard to the multiplication and dissemination practices that were related to its uses. We studied the polymorphisms of 27 nuclear and cytoplasmic genetic markers of 24 citron varieties, preserved in the citrus germplasm of INRA-CIRAD, San Giuliano, France. The composition of leaf essential oils was determined to establish varieties and phylogenic relationships between accessions. Other major citrus species were included in the molecular analysis, which demonstrated the existence of 13 genetically linked citrons, differing from other citrus species, based on low heterozygosity and specific alleles; these citrons were considered true-type citrons, confirmed by their convergent chemical profiles. We also detected a polymorphism in the chloroplastic genome in these 13 citrons, which, when combined with allelic diversity of 2.4 alleles per locus, suggests that multiple citrons were introduced to the Mediterranean area in last 2 millennia. We determined the genetic origin and relationships of several varieties, such as Corsican, which could have arisen from the selfing of Poncire Commun. We noted a higher-than-expected polymorphism rate among Mediterranean citron varieties, likely due to crossfecundation. The chemical leaf oil composition of several economical varieties, such as Corsican, is distinct and can increase the quality of specific agriculture products for the cosmetics and candy industries.
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