Genetic diversity and domestication origin of tea plant Camellia taliensis (Theaceae) as revealed by microsatellite markers

Dong wei Zhao, Jun bo Yang, Shi xiong Yang, Kenji Kato, Jian ping Luo

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28 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world. Many species in the Thea section of the Camellia genus can be processed for drinking and have been domesticated. However, few investigations have focused on the genetic consequence of domestication and geographic origin of landraces on tea plants using credible wild and planted populations of a single species. Here, C. taliensis provides us with a unique opportunity to explore these issues. Results: Fourteen nuclear microsatellite loci were employed to determine the genetic diversity and domestication origin of C. taliensis, which were represented by 587 individuals from 25 wild, planted and recently domesticated populations. C. taliensis showed a moderate high level of overall genetic diversity. The greater reduction of genetic diversity and stronger genetic drift were detected in the wild group than in the recently domesticated group, indicating the loss of genetic diversity of wild populations due to overexploitation and habitat fragmentation. Instead of the endangered wild trees, recently domesticated individuals were used to compare with the planted trees for detecting the genetic consequence of domestication. A little and non-significant reduction in genetic diversity was found during domestication. The long life cycle, selection for leaf traits and gene flow between populations will delay the emergence of bottleneck in planted trees. Both phylogenetic and assignment analyses suggested that planted trees may have been domesticated from the adjacent central forest of western Yunnan and dispersed artificially to distant places. Conclusions: This study contributes to the knowledge about levels and distribution of genetic diversity of C. taliensis and provides new insights into genetic consequence of domestication and geographic origin of planted trees of this species. As an endemic tea source plant, wild, planted and recently domesticated C. taliensis trees should all be protected for their unique genetic characteristics, which are valuable for tea breeding.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14
JournalBMC Plant Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 9 2014



  • Camellia taliensis
  • Domestication
  • Genetic diversity
  • Microsatellite
  • Tea plant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science

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