A fruit firmness QTL identified on linkage group 4 in sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) is associated with domesticated and bred germplasm
Fruit firmness is an important market driven trait in sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) where the desirable increase in fruit firmness is associated with landrace and bred cultivars. The aim of this work was to investigate the genetic basis of fruit firmness using plant materials that include wild cherry (syn. mazzard), landrace and bred sweet cherry germplasm. A major QTL for fruit firmness, named qP-FF4.1, that had not previously been reported, was identified in three sweet cherry populations. Thirteen haplotypes (alleles) associated with either soft or firm fruit were identified for qP-FF4.1 in the sweet cherry germplasm, and the "soft" alleles were dominant over the "firm" alleles. The finding that sweet cherry individuals that are homozygous for the "soft" alleles for qP-FF4.1 are exclusively mazzards and that the vast majority of the bred cultivars are homozygous for "firm" alleles suggests that this locus is a signature of selection. Candidate genes related to plant cell wall modification and various plant hormone signaling pathways were identified, with an expansin gene being the most promising candidate. These results advance our understanding of the genetic basis of fruit firmness and will help to enable the use of DNA informed breeding for this trait in sweet cherry breeding programs.
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