Indications for Three Independent Domestication Events for the Tea Plant (Camellia sinensis (L.) O. Kuntze) and New Insights into the Origin of Tea Germplasm in China and India Revealed by Nuclear Microsatellites uri icon


  • BackgroundTea is the world's most popular non-alcoholic beverage. China and India are known to be the largest tea producing countries and recognized as the centers for the domestication of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis (L.) O. Kuntze). However, molecular studies on the origin, domestication and relationships of the main teas, China type, Assam type and Cambod type are lacking. Methodology/Principal Findings: Twenty-three nuclear microsatellite markers were used to investigate the genetic diversity, relatedness, and domestication history of cultivated tea in both China and India. Based on a total of 392 samples, high levels of genetic diversity were observed for all tea types in both countries. The cultivars clustered into three distinct genetic groups (i.e. China tea, Chinese Assam tea and Indian Assam tea) based on STRUCTURE, PCoA and UPGMA analyses with significant pairwise genetic differentiation, corresponding well with their geographical distribution. A high proportion (30%) of the studied tea samples were shown to possess genetic admixtures of different tea types suggesting a hybrid origin for these samples, including the Cambod type. Conclusions: We demonstrate that Chinese Assam tea is a distinct genetic lineage from Indian Assam tea, and that China tea sampled from India was likely introduced from China directly. Our results further indicate that China type tea, Chinese Assam type tea and Indian Assam type tea are likely the result of three independent domestication events from three separate regions across China and India. Our findings have important implications for the conservation of genetic stocks, as well as future breeding programs. © 2016 Meegahakumbura et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

publication date

  • 2016