Hybridization has played a central role in the evolutionary history of domesticated plants. Notably, several breeding programs relying on gene introgression from the wild compartment have been performed in fruit tree species within the genus Prunus but few studies investigated spontaneous gene flow among wild and domesticated Prunus species. Consequently, a comprehensive understanding of genetic relationships and levels of gene flow between domesticated and wild Prunus species is needed. Combining nuclear and chloroplastic microsatellites, we investigated the gene flow and hybridization among two key almond tree species, the cultivated Prunus dulcis and one of the most widespread wild relative Prunus orientalis in the Fertile Crescent. We detected high genetic diversity levels in both species along with substantial and symmetric gene flow between the domesticated P. dulcis and the wild P. orientalis. These results were discussed in light of the cultivated species diversity, by outlining the frequent spontaneous genetic contributions of wild species to the domesticated compartment. In addition, crop-to-wild gene flow suggests that ad hoc transgene containment strategies would be required if genetically modified cultivars were introduced in the northwestern Mediterranean.
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