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Environ Biosafety Res. 2010 Apr-Jun;9(2):75-85. doi: 10.1051/ebr/2010011. Epub 2011 Feb 3.

Gene flow in Prunus species in the context of novel trait risk assessment.

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  • 1Department of Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, N1G2W1, Canada.


Prunus species are important commercial fruit (plums, apricot, peach and cherries), nut (almond) and ornamental trees cultivated broadly worldwide. This review compiles information from available literature on Prunus species in regard to gene flow and hybridization within this complex of species. The review serves as a resource for environmental risk assessment related to pollen mediated gene flow and the release of transgenic Prunus. It reveals that Prunus species, especially plums and cherries show high potential for transgene flow. A range of characteristics including; genetic diversity, genetic bridging capacity, inter- and intra-specific genetic compatibility, self sterility (in most species), high frequency of open pollination, insect assisted pollination, perennial nature, complex phenotypic architecture (canopy height, heterogeneous crown, number of flowers produced in an individual plant), tendency to escape from cultivation, and the existence of ornamental and road side Prunus species suggest that there is a tremendous and complicated ability for pollen mediated gene movement among Prunus species. Ploidy differences among Prunus species do not necessarily provide genetic segregation. The characteristics of Prunu s species highlight the complexity of maintaining coexistence between GM and non-GM Prunus if there were commercial production of GM Prunus species. The results of this review suggest that the commercialization of one GM Prunus species can create coexistence issues for commercial non-GM Prunus production. Despite advances in molecular markers and genetic analysis in agroecology, there remains limited information on the ecological diversity, metapopulation nature, population dynamics, and direct measures of gene flow among different subgenera represented in the Prunus genus. Robust environmental impact, biosafety and coexistence assessments for GM Prunus species will require better understanding of the mechanisms of gene flow and hybridization among species within the Prunus species complex.

© ISBR, EDP Sciences, 2011.

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