Microsatellite markers or Simple Sequence Repeats (SSRs) are the most popular markers in population/conservation genetics. However, the development of novel microsatellite markers has been impeded by high costs, a lack of available sequence data and technical difficulties. New species-specific microsatellite markers were required to investigate the evolutionary history of the Euphratica tree, Populus euphratica, the only tree species found in the desert regions of Western China and adjacent Central Asian countries.
A total of 94,090 non-redundant Expressed Sequence Tags (ESTs) from P. euphratica comprising around 63 Mb of sequence data were searched for SSRs. 4,202 SSRs were found in 3,839 ESTs, with 311 ESTs containing multiple SSRs. The most common motif types were trinucleotides (37%) and hexanucleotides (33%) repeats. We developed primer pairs for all of the identified EST-SSRs (eSSRs) and selected 673 of these pairs at random for further validation. 575 pairs (85%) gave successful amplification, of which, 464 (80.7%) were polymorphic in six to 24 individuals from natural populations across Northern China. We also tested the transferability of the polymorphic eSSRs to nine other Populus species. In addition, to facilitate the use of these new eSSR markers by other researchers, we mapped them onto Populus trichocarpa scaffolds in silico and compiled our data into a web-based database ( http://220.127.116.11:8080/poplar/resources/static_page/index.html).
The large set of validated eSSRs identified in this work will have many potential applications in studies on P. euphratica and other poplar species, in fields such as population genetics, comparative genomics, linkage mapping, QTL, and marker-assisted breeding. Their use will be facilitated by their incorporation into a user-friendly web-based database.