Unravelling Differences in Candidate Genes for Drought Tolerance in Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) by Use of New Functional Microsatellite Markers
Potato is regarded as drought sensitive and most vulnerable to climate changes. Its cultivation in drought prone regions or under conditions of more frequent drought periods, especially in subtropical areas, requires intensive research to improve drought tolerance in order to guarantee high yields under limited water supplies. A candidate gene approach was used to develop functional simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers for association studies in potato with the aim to enhance breeding for drought tolerance. SSR primer combinations, mostly surrounding interrupted complex and compound repeats, were derived from 103 candidate genes for drought tolerance. Validation of the SSRs was performed in an association panel representing 34 mainly starch potato cultivars. Seventy-five out of 154 SSR primer combinations (49%) resulted in polymorphic, highly reproducible banding patterns with polymorphic information content (PIC) values between 0.11 and 0.90. Five SSR markers identified allelic differences between the potato cultivars that showed significant associations with drought sensitivity. In all cases, the group of drought-sensitive cultivars showed predominantly an additional allele, indicating that selection against these alleles by marker-assisted breeding might confer drought tolerance. Further studies of these differences in the candidate genes will elucidate their role for an improved performance of potatoes under water-limited conditions.