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Application Of The MSAP Technique To Evaluate Epigenetic Changes In Plant Conservation

María Elena González-Benito, Miguel Ángel Ibáñez, Michela Pirredda, Sara Mira, Carmen Martín

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Epigenetic variation, and particularly DNA methylation, is involved in plasticity and responses to changes in the environment. Conservation biology studies have focused on the measurement of this variation to establish demographic parameters, diversity levels and population structure to design the appropriate conservation strategies. However, in ex situ conservation approaches, the main objective is to guarantee the characteristics of the conserved material (phenotype and epi-genetic). We review the use of the Methylation Sensitive Amplified Polymorphism (MSAP) technique to detect changes in the DNA methylation patterns of plant material conserved by the main ex situ plant conservation methods: seed banks, in vitro slow growth and cryopreservation. Comparison of DNA methylation patterns before and after conservation is a useful tool to check the fidelity of the regenerated plants, and, at the same time, may be related with other genetic variations that might appear during the conservation process (i.e., somaclonal variation). Analyses of MSAP profiles can be useful in the management of ex situ plant conservation but differs in the approach used in the in situ conservation. Likewise, an easy-to-use methodology is necessary for a rapid interpretation of data, in order to be readily implemented by conservation managers.