Members of the primary gene pool of the chickpea, including 38 accessions of Cicer arietinum, six of C. reticulatum and four of C. echinospermum grown in India were investigated using 100 SSR markers to analyze their genetic structure, diversity and relationships. We found considerable diversity, with a mean of 4.8 alleles per locus (ranging from 2 to 11); polymorphic information content ranged from 0.040 to 0.803, with a mean of 0.536. Most of the diversity was confined to the wild species, which had higher values of polymorphic information content, gene diversity and heterozygosity than the cultivated species, suggesting a narrow genetic base for cultivated chickpea. An unrooted neighbor-joining tree, principal coordinate analysis and population structure analysis revealed differentiation between the cultivated accessions and the wild species; three cultivated accessions were in an intermediate position, demonstrating introgression within the cultivated group. Better understanding of the structure, diversity and relationships within and among the members of this primary gene pool will contribute to more efficient identification, conservation and utilization of chickpea germplasm for allele mining, association genetics, mapping and cloning gene(s) and applied breeding to widen the genetic base of this cultivated species, for the development of elite lines with superior yield and improved adaptation to diverse environments.
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