The castor bean (Ricinus communis L.), a monotypic species in the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae, 2n = 20), is an important non-edible oilseed crop widely cultivated in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate countries for its high economic value. Because of the high level of ricinoleic acid (over 85%) in its seed oil, the castor bean seed derivatives are often used in aviation oil, lubricants, nylon, dyes, inks, soaps, adhesive and biodiesel. Due to lack of efficient molecular markers, little is known about the population genetic diversity and the genetic relationships among castor bean germplasm. Efficient and robust molecular markers are increasingly needed for breeding and improving varieties in castor bean. The advent of modern genomics has produced large amounts of publicly available DNA sequence data. In particular, expressed sequence tags (ESTs) provide valuable resources to develop gene-associated SSR markers.
In total, 18,928 publicly available non-redundant castor bean EST sequences, representing approximately 17.03 Mb, were evaluated and 7732 SSR sites in 5,122 ESTs were identified by data mining. Castor bean exhibited considerably high frequency of EST-SSRs. We developed and characterized 118 polymorphic EST-SSR markers from 379 primer pairs flanking repeats by screening 24 castor bean samples collected from different countries. A total of 350 alleles were identified from 118 polymorphic SSR loci, ranging from 2-6 per locus (A) with an average of 2.97. The EST-SSR markers developed displayed moderate gene diversity (He) with an average of 0.41. Genetic relationships among 24 germplasms were investigated using the genotypes of 350 alleles, showing geographic pattern of genotypes across genetic diversity centers of castor bean.
Castor bean EST sequences exhibited considerably high frequency of SSR sites, and were rich resources for developing EST-SSR markers. These EST-SSR markers would be particularly useful for both genetic mapping and population structure analysis, facilitating breeding and crop improvement of castor bean.