Debnath, S. C., Siow, Y. L., Petkau, J., An, D. and Bykova, N. V. 2012. Molecular markers and antioxidant activity in berry crops: Genetic diversity analysis. Can. J. Plant Sci. 92: 1121-1133. An improved understanding of important roles of dietary fruits in maintaining human health has led to a dramatic increase of global berry crop production. Berry fruits contain relatively high levels of vitamin C, cellulose and pectin, and produce anthocyanins, which have important therapeutic values, including antitumor, antiulcer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. There is a need to develop reliable methods to identify berry germplasm and assess genetic diversity/relatedness for dietary properties in berry genotypes for practical breeding purposes through genotype selection in a breeding program for cultivar development, and proprietary-rights protection. The introduction of molecular biology techniques, such as DNA-based markers, allows direct comparison of different genetic materials independent of environmental influences. Significant progress has been made in diversity analysis of wild cranberry, lowbush blueberry, lingonberry and cloudberry germplasm, and in strawberry and raspberry cultivars and advanced breeding lines developed in Canada. Inter simple sequence repeat (ISSR) markers detected an adequate degree of polymorphism to differentiate among berry genotypes, making this technology valuable for cultivar identification and for the more efficient choice of parents in the current berry improvement programs. Although multiple factors affect antioxidant activity, a wide range of genetic diversity has been reported in wild and cultivated berry crops. Diversity analysis based on molecular markers did not agree with those from antioxidant activity. The paper also discusses the issues that still need to be addressed to utilize the full potential of molecular techniques including expressed sequence tag-polymerase chain reaction (EST-PCR) analysis to develop improved environment-friendly berry cultivars suited to the changing needs of growers and consumers.
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