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1.  High Genetic Diversity Detected in Olives beyond the Boundaries of the Mediterranean Sea 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93146.
Olive trees (Olea europaea subsp. europaea var. europaea) naturally grow in areas spanning the Mediterranean basin and towards the East, including the Middle East. In the Iranian plateau, the presence of olives has been documented since very ancient times, though the early history of the crop in this area is shrouded in uncertainty.
The varieties presently cultivated in Iran and trees of an unknown cultivation status, surviving under extreme climate and soil conditions, were sampled from different provinces and compared with a set of Mediterranean cultivars. All samples were analyzed using SSR and chloroplast markers to establish the relationships between Iranian olives and Mediterranean varieties, to shed light on the origins of Iranian olives and to verify their contribution to the development of the current global olive variation.
Iranian cultivars and ecotypes, when analyzed using SSR markers, clustered separately from Mediterranean cultivars and showed a high number of private alleles, on the contrary, they shared the same single chlorotype with the most widespread varieties cultivated in the Mediterranean.
We hypothesized that Iranian and Mediterranean olive trees may have had a common origin from a unique center in the Near East region, possibly including the western Iranian area. The present pattern of variation may have derived from different environmental conditions, distinct levels and selection criteria, and divergent breeding opportunities found by Mediterranean and Iranian olives.These unexpected findings emphasize the importance of studying the Iranian olive germplasm as a promising but endangered source of variation.
PMCID: PMC3977848  PMID: 24709858
2.  Proteome Regulation during Olea europaea Fruit Development 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53563.
Widespread in the Mediterranean basin, Olea europaea trees are gaining worldwide popularity for the nutritional and cancer-protective properties of the oil, mechanically extracted from ripe fruits. Fruit development is a physiological process with remarkable impact on the modulation of the biosynthesis of compounds affecting the quality of the drupes as well as the final composition of the olive oil. Proteomics offers the possibility to dig deeper into the major changes during fruit development, including the important phase of ripening, and to classify temporal patterns of protein accumulation occurring during these complex physiological processes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In this work, we started monitoring the proteome variations associated with olive fruit development by using comparative proteomics coupled to mass spectrometry. Proteins extracted from drupes at three different developmental stages were separated on 2-DE and subjected to image analysis. 247 protein spots were revealed as differentially accumulated. Proteins were identified from a total of 121 spots and discussed in relation to olive drupe metabolic changes occurring during fruit development. In order to evaluate if changes observed at the protein level were consistent with changes of mRNAs, proteomic data produced in the present work were compared with transcriptomic data elaborated during previous studies.
This study identifies a number of proteins responsible for quality traits of cv. Coratina, with particular regard to proteins associated to the metabolism of fatty acids, phenolic and aroma compounds. Proteins involved in fruit photosynthesis have been also identified and their pivotal contribution in oleogenesis has been discussed. To date, this study represents the first characterization of the olive fruit proteome during development, providing new insights into fruit metabolism and oil accumulation process.
PMCID: PMC3547947  PMID: 23349718
3.  Olive phenolic compounds: metabolic and transcriptional profiling during fruit development 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:162.
Olive (Olea europaea L.) fruits contain numerous secondary metabolites, primarily phenolics, terpenes and sterols, some of which are particularly interesting for their nutraceutical properties. This study will attempt to provide further insight into the profile of olive phenolic compounds during fruit development and to identify the major genetic determinants of phenolic metabolism.
The concentration of the major phenolic compounds, such as oleuropein, demethyloleuropein, 3–4 DHPEA-EDA, ligstroside, tyrosol, hydroxytyrosol, verbascoside and lignans, were measured in the developing fruits of 12 olive cultivars. The content of these compounds varied significantly among the cultivars and decreased during fruit development and maturation, with some compounds showing specificity for certain cultivars. Thirty-five olive transcripts homologous to genes involved in the pathways of the main secondary metabolites were identified from the massive sequencing data of the olive fruit transcriptome or from cDNA-AFLP analysis. Their mRNA levels were determined using RT-qPCR analysis on fruits of high- and low-phenolic varieties (Coratina and Dolce d’Andria, respectively) during three different fruit developmental stages. A strong correlation was observed between phenolic compound concentrations and transcripts putatively involved in their biosynthesis, suggesting a transcriptional regulation of the corresponding pathways. OeDXS, OeGES, OeGE10H and OeADH, encoding putative 1-deoxy-D-xylulose-5-P synthase, geraniol synthase, geraniol 10-hydroxylase and arogenate dehydrogenase, respectively, were almost exclusively present at 45 days after flowering (DAF), suggesting that these compounds might play a key role in regulating secoiridoid accumulation during fruit development.
Metabolic and transcriptional profiling led to the identification of some major players putatively involved in biosynthesis of secondary compounds in the olive tree. Our data represent the first step towards the functional characterisation of important genes for the determination of olive fruit quality.
PMCID: PMC3480905  PMID: 22963618
Olea europaea; Phenolics; Secoiridoids; RT-qPCR; Transcriptome; Secondary metabolism
4.  Molecular interactions between the olive and the fruit fly Bactrocera oleae 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:86.
The fruit fly Bactrocera oleae is the primary biotic stressor of cultivated olives, causing direct and indirect damages that significantly reduce both the yield and the quality of olive oil. To study the olive-B. oleae interaction, we conducted transcriptomic and proteomic investigations of the molecular response of the drupe. The identifications of genes and proteins involved in the fruit response were performed using a Suppression Subtractive Hybridisation technique and a combined bi-dimensional electrophoresis/nanoLC-ESI-LIT-MS/MS approach, respectively.
We identified 196 ESTs and 26 protein spots as differentially expressed in olives with larval feeding tunnels. A bioinformatic analysis of the identified non-redundant EST and protein collection indicated that different molecular processes were affected, such as stress response, phytohormone signalling, transcriptional control and primary metabolism, and that a considerable proportion of the ESTs could not be classified. The altered expression of 20 transcripts was also analysed by real-time PCR, and the most striking differences were further confirmed in the fruit of a different olive variety. We also cloned the full-length coding sequences of two genes, Oe-chitinase I and Oe-PR27, and showed that these are wound-inducible genes and activated by B. oleae punctures.
This study represents the first report that reveals the molecular players and signalling pathways involved in the interaction between the olive fruit and its most damaging biotic stressor. Drupe response is complex, involving genes and proteins involved in photosynthesis as well as in the production of ROS, the activation of different stress response pathways and the production of compounds involved in direct defence against phytophagous larvae. Among the latter, trypsin inhibitors should play a major role in drupe resistance reaction.
PMCID: PMC3733423  PMID: 22694925
Olea europea; Pest; SSH; Proteomics; Defence; Fruit fly
5.  Selective recognition of DNA from olive leaves and olive oil by PNA and modified-PNA microarrays 
Artificial DNA, PNA & XNA  2012;3(2):63-72.
PNA probes for the specific detection of DNA from olive oil samples by microarray technology were developed. The presence of as low as 5% refined hazelnut (Corylus avellana) oil in extra-virgin olive oil (Olea europaea L.) could be detected by using a PNA microarray. A set of two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from the Actin gene of Olive was chosen as a model for evaluating the ability of PNA probes for discriminating olive cultivars. Both unmodified and C2-modified PNAs bearing an arginine side-chain were used, the latter showing higher sequence specificity. DNA extracted from leaves of three different cultivars (Ogliarola leccese, Canino and Frantoio) could be easily discriminated using a microarray with unmodified PNA probes, whereas discrimination of DNA from oil samples was more challenging, and could be obtained only by using chiral PNA probes.
PMCID: PMC3429532  PMID: 22772038
PNA; olive oil; hazelnut oil; SNP; cultivar identification; DNA fingerprinting
6.  Identification of new polymorphic regions and differentiation of cultivated olives (Olea europaea L.) through plastome sequence comparison 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:211.
The cultivated olive (Olea europaea L.) is the most agriculturally important species of the Oleaceae family. Although many studies have been performed on plastid polymorphisms to evaluate taxonomy, phylogeny and phylogeography of Olea subspecies, only few polymorphic regions discriminating among the agronomically and economically important olive cultivars have been identified. The objective of this study was to sequence the entire plastome of olive and analyze many potential polymorphic regions to develop new inter-cultivar genetic markers.
The complete plastid genome of the olive cultivar Frantoio was determined by direct sequence analysis using universal and novel PCR primers designed to amplify all overlapping regions. The chloroplast genome of the olive has an organisation and gene order that is conserved among numerous Angiosperm species and do not contain any of the inversions, gene duplications, insertions, inverted repeat expansions and gene/intron losses that have been found in the chloroplast genomes of the genera Jasminum and Menodora, from the same family as Olea.
The annotated sequence was used to evaluate the content of coding genes, the extent, and distribution of repeated and long dispersed sequences and the nucleotide composition pattern. These analyses provided essential information for structural, functional and comparative genomic studies in olive plastids. Furthermore, the alignment of the olive plastome sequence to those of other varieties and species identified 30 new organellar polymorphisms within the cultivated olive.
In addition to identifying mutations that may play a functional role in modifying the metabolism and adaptation of olive cultivars, the new chloroplast markers represent a valuable tool to assess the level of olive intercultivar plastome variation for use in population genetic analysis, phylogenesis, cultivar characterisation and DNA food tracking.
PMCID: PMC2956560  PMID: 20868482
7.  Computational annotation of genes differentially expressed along olive fruit development 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:128.
Olea europaea L. is a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean basin with a worldwide economical high impact. Differently from other fruit tree species, little is known about the physiological and molecular basis of the olive fruit development and a few sequences of genes and gene products are available for olive in public databases. This study deals with the identification of large sets of differentially expressed genes in developing olive fruits and the subsequent computational annotation by means of different software.
mRNA from fruits of the cv. Leccino sampled at three different stages [i.e., initial fruit set (stage 1), completed pit hardening (stage 2) and veraison (stage 3)] was used for the identification of differentially expressed genes putatively involved in main processes along fruit development. Four subtractive hybridization libraries were constructed: forward and reverse between stage 1 and 2 (libraries A and B), and 2 and 3 (libraries C and D). All sequenced clones (1,132 in total) were analyzed through BlastX against non-redundant NCBI databases and about 60% of them showed similarity to known proteins. A total of 89 out of 642 differentially expressed unique sequences was further investigated by Real-Time PCR, showing a validation of the SSH results as high as 69%. Library-specific cDNA repertories were annotated according to the three main vocabularies of the gene ontology (GO): cellular component, biological process and molecular function. BlastX analysis, GO terms mapping and annotation analysis were performed using the Blast2GO software, a research tool designed with the main purpose of enabling GO based data mining on sequence sets for which no GO annotation is yet available. Bioinformatic analysis pointed out a significantly different distribution of the annotated sequences for each GO category, when comparing the three fruit developmental stages. The olive fruit-specific transcriptome dataset was used to query all known KEGG (Kyoto Encyclopaedia of Genes and Genomes) metabolic pathways for characterizing and positioning retrieved EST records. The integration of the olive sequence datasets within the MapMan platform for microarray analysis allowed the identification of specific biosynthetic pathways useful for the definition of key functional categories in time course analyses for gene groups.
The bioinformatic annotation of all gene sequences was useful to shed light on metabolic pathways and transcriptional aspects related to carbohydrates, fatty acids, secondary metabolites, transcription factors and hormones as well as response to biotic and abiotic stresses throughout olive drupe development. These results represent a first step toward both functional genomics and systems biology research for understanding the gene functions and regulatory networks in olive fruit growth and ripening.
PMCID: PMC2774695  PMID: 19852839
8.  Comparative 454 pyrosequencing of transcripts from two olive genotypes during fruit development 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:399.
Despite its primary economic importance, genomic information on olive tree is still lacking. 454 pyrosequencing was used to enrich the very few sequence data currently available for the Olea europaea species and to identify genes involved in expression of fruit quality traits.
Fruits of Coratina, a widely cultivated variety characterized by a very high phenolic content, and Tendellone, an oleuropein-lacking natural variant, were used as starting material for monitoring the transcriptome. Four different cDNA libraries were sequenced, respectively at the beginning and at the end of drupe development. A total of 261,485 reads were obtained, for an output of about 58 Mb. Raw sequence data were processed using a four step pipeline procedure and data were stored in a relational database with a web interface.
Massively parallel sequencing of different fruit cDNA collections has provided large scale information about the structure and putative function of gene transcripts accumulated during fruit development. Comparative transcript profiling allowed the identification of differentially expressed genes with potential relevance in regulating the fruit metabolism and phenolic content during ripening.
PMCID: PMC2748093  PMID: 19709400
9.  Genetic Diversity and Population Structure of Wild Olives from the North-western Mediterranean Assessed by SSR Markers 
Annals of Botany  2007;100(3):449-458.
Background and Aims
This study examines the pattern of genetic variability and genetic relationships of wild olive (Olea europaea subsp. europaea var. sylvestris) populations in the north-western Mediterranean. Recent bottleneck events are also assessed and an investigation is made of the underlying population structure of the wild olive populations.
The genetic variation within and between 11 wild olive populations (171 individuals) was analysed with eight microsatellite markers. Conventional and Bayesian-based analyses were applied to infer genetic structure and define the number of gene pools in wild olive populations.
Key Results
Bayesian model-based clustering identified four gene pools, which was in overall concordance with the Factorial Correspondence Analysis and Fitch–Margoliash tree. Two gene pools were predominantly found in southern Spain and Italian islands, respectively, in samples gathered from undisturbed forests of the typical Mediterranean climate. The other two gene pools were mostly detected in the north-eastern regions of Spain and in continental Italy and belong to the transition region between the temperate and Mediterranean climate zones.
On the basis of these results, it can be assumed that the population structure of wild olives from the north-western Mediterranean partially reflects the evolutionary history of these populations, although hybridization between true oleasters and cultivated varieties in areas of close contact between the two forms must be assumed as well. The study indicates a degree of admixture in all the populations, and suggests some caution regarding genetic differentiation at the population level, making it difficult to identify clear-cut genetic boundaries between candidate areas containing either genuinely wild or feral germplasm.
PMCID: PMC2533604  PMID: 17613587
Olea europaea; genetic variability; gene pools; microsatellites; oleasters; population structure
10.  Genetic Structure of Wild and Cultivated Olives in the Central Mediterranean Basin 
Annals of Botany  2006;98(5):935-942.
• Background and Aims Olive cultivars and their wild relatives (oleasters) represent two botanical varieties of Olea europaea subsp. europaea (respectively europaea and sylvestris). Olive cultivars have undergone human selection and their area of diffusion overlaps that of oleasters. Populations of genuine wild olives seem restricted to isolated areas of Mediterranean forests, while most other wild-looking forms of olive may include feral forms that escaped cultivation.
• Methods The genetic structure of wild and cultivated olive tree populations was evaluated by amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers at a microscale level in one continental and two insular Italian regions.
• Key Results The observed patterns of genetic variation were able to distinguish wild from cultivated populations and continental from insular regions. Island oleasters were highly similar to each other and were clearly distinguishable from those of continental regions. Ancient cultivated material from one island clustered with the wild plants, while the old plants from the continental region clustered with the cultivated group.
• Conclusions On the basis of these results, we can assume that olive trees have undergone a different selection/domestication process in the insular and mainland regions. The degree of differentiation between oleasters and cultivated trees on the islands suggests that all cultivars have been introduced into these regions from the outside, while the Umbrian cultivars have originated either by selection from local oleasters or by direct introduction from other regions.
PMCID: PMC2803593  PMID: 16935868
Olea europaea; AFLP; genetic diversity; population structure; wild populations

Results 1-10 (10)