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Evaluating Theobroma grandiflorum for comparative genomic studies with Theobroma cacao

Kuhn, David N., Figueira, Antonio, Lopes, Uilson, Motamayor, Juan Carlos, Meerow, Alan W., Cariaga, Kathleen, Freeman, Barbie, Livingstone, Donald S. III, Schnell, Raymond J.
Tree genetics & genomes 2010 v.6 no.5 pp. 783-792
Theobroma cacao, Theobroma grandiflorum, abscission, agronomic traits, alleles, beans, cocoa butter, disease resistance, flavor, fruits, genetic markers, genetic variation, genomics, genotype, hybrids, nucleotide sequences, seed storage, seedlings, seeds, single nucleotide polymorphism, single-stranded conformational polymorphism, triacylglycerols, witches' broom
The seeds of Theobroma cacao (cacao) are the source of cocoa, the raw material for the multi-billion dollar chocolate industry. Cacao's two most important traits are its unique seed storage triglyceride (cocoa butter) and the flavor of its fermented beans (chocolate). The genome of T. cacao is being sequenced, and to expand the utility of the genome sequence to the improvement of cacao, we are evaluating Theobroma grandiflorum, the closest economically important species of Theobroma for its potential use in a comparative genomic study. T. grandiflorum differs from cacao in important agronomic traits such as flavor of the fermented beans, disease resistance to witches' broom and abscission of mature fruits. By comparing genomic sequences and analyzing viable inter-specific hybrids, we hope to identify the key genes that regulate cacao's most important traits. We have investigated the utility in T. grandiflorum of three types of markers (microsatellite markers, single-strand conformational polymorphism markers and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers) developed in cacao. Through sequencing of amplicons of 12 diverse individuals of both cacao and T. grandiflorum, we have identified new intra- and inter-specific SNPs. Two markers which had no overlap of alleles between the species were used to genotype putative inter-specific hybrid seedlings. Sequence conservation was significant and species-specific differences numerous enough to suggest that comparative genomics of T. grandiflorum and T. cacao will be useful in elucidating the genetic differences that lead to a variety of important agronomic trait differences.