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Phenotypic, Genetic, and Epigenetic Variation among Diverse Sweet Cherry Gene Pools

Evangelia V. Avramidou, Theodoros Moysiadis, Ioannis Ganopoulos, Michail Michailidis, Christos Kissoudis, Dimitrios Valasiadis, Konstantinos Kazantzis, Eirini Tsaroucha, Athanasios Tsaftaris, Athanassios Molassiotis, Filippos A. Aravanopoulos and Aliki Xanthopoulou

Sweet cherry germplasm contains a high variety of phenotypes which are associated with fruit size and shape as well as sugar content, etc. High phenotypic variation can be a result of genetic or epigenetic diversity that may interact through time. Recent studies have provided evidence that besides allelic variation, epiallelic variation can establish new heritable phenotypes. Herein we conducted a genetic and an epigenetic study (using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) and methylation-sensitive amplified polymorphism (MSAP) markers, respectively), accompanied by phenotypic traits correlation analysis in sweet cherry gene pools. The mean genetic diversity was greater than the epigenetic diversity (hgen = 0.193; hepi = 0.185), while no significant relationship was found between genetic and epigenetic distance according to a Mantel test. Furthermore, according to correlation analyses our results provided evidence that epigenetic diversity in predefined populations of sweet cherry had a stronger impact on phenotypic traits than their rich genetic diversity.