The origin of the grapevine, Vitis vinifera ssp . sativa L., has been investigated with archaeobotanical–archaeological, cultural and historical data indicating a unique domestication centre located in the Caucasian and Middel-East regions about 6–7000 years ago, but, events leading to the domestication of this species are still an open issue. In this work, eight universal chloroplast microsatellites are used to assess genetic relationships among varieties selected as representatives of four distinct geographical groups from Middle-East to Western European regions. Results show that two out of the eight analysed chloroplast loci are polymorphic within the 142 individuals. Allele variants of the cpSSR loci combine in a total of six different haplotypes. The analysis of haplotypes distribution and haplotype diversity (HD) suggest that only three out of the six haplotypes are represented in the Caucasian and Middle-East samples, with 90% of individuals sharing the same haplotype. Moreover, the presence of all six haplotypes in the European accessions, with a high level of haplotype diversity, suggests varietal influx in these areas. Concerning the Western European varieties, especially in Spanish accessions, half of the individuals share haplotype VI which is completely absent in the Caucasian and Middle-East cultivars. This result opens the discussion about the existence of a unique and common domestication centre, located in the Caucasian and Middle-East area, for all the European cultivars.
This work suggests the usefulness of chloroplast genome markers to provide information on haplotype distributions that could help to identify further geographical areas for grapevine varietal evolution.