Background: The exploration of genetic diversity is the key source of germplasm conservation strategies and the potential to widen its genetic base. The globally growing demand for chickpea suggests superior/climate-resilient varieties, which in turn necessitatesthe germplasm characterization to unravel underlying genetic variation.
Methodology and Results: A chickpea core collection comprising of diverse 192 accessions which include cultivated Cicer arietinum, and wild C. reticulatum, C. echinospermum, and C. microphyllum specieswere investigated to analyze their genetic diversity and relationship, by assaying 33 unlinked simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers. The results amplifieda total of 323 alleles, ranging from 2 to 8withan average of4.25 alleles per locus. Expected heterozygosity (He) differed from 0.46 to 0.86 with an average of 0.68. Polymorphic information content (PIC) ranged from 0.73 to 0.98 with an average of 0.89. Analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) showed that most of the variation was among individuals (87%). Cluster analysis resulted in the formation of four distinct clusters. Cluster I represented all cultivated and clusters II, III, and IV comprised a heterogeneous group of cultivated and wild chickpea accessions.
Conclusion: We report considerable diversity and greater resolving power of SSR markers for assessingvariability and interrelationship among the chickpea accessions. The chickpea core is expected to be an efficient resource for breeders for broadening its genetic base and provides useful insight for selective breeding of desirable traits and in the identification of target genes for genomics-assisted breeding. Keywords: Chickpea, Core collection, Genetic diversity, Microsatellites, Cluster analysis.