The best of Santalum album: essential oil composition, biosynthesis and genetic diversity in the Australian tropical sandalwood collection

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[Truncated abstract] An investigation into the causes of heartwood and essential oil content of Australian plantation sandalwood, Santalum album was undertaken. Genetic diversity of 233 S. album, five S. austrocaledonicum and fifteen S. macgregorii trees growing in the Forest Products Commission arboretum, Kununurra WA, was assessed using nuclear and chloroplast RFLPs. Santalum spicatum was chosen as an out-group. Nuclear genetic diversity of the S. album collection was very low, with observed and expected heterozygosity levels of 0.047. This was lower than the results previously reported in the literature for trees in India, however a different technique was used. Based on allelic patterns, the collection was able to be categorised into 19 genotypes; each representing some shared genetic origin. Some groups were highly redundant with 56 trees being represented, while others were populated by just one tree. The essential oil yield and heartwood contents of trees from these genetic groups were compared. Yields were highly variable both within and between groups of trees which share a common genetic history, suggesting a significant environmental component was contributing to the observed phenotype, despite identical soil and climatic conditions. Ancestral lineages were tested using chloroplast RFLPs, although a lack of shared mutations between species made this difficult. Only one S. album tree originating from Timor was resolved using nuclear RFLPs, with the other trees being grouped with material sourced from India. There was no resolution of Indian S. album from Timorese using chloroplast RFLPs, however one S. album tree grown from Indian seed possessed a single unique mutation. The low genetic diversity of the Australian S. album collection is likely to be a combination of incomplete seed sourcing and highly restricted gene flow during the evolution of the species. Combined with information gathered on the phylogeny of the genus by other researchers, S. album is postulated to have originated from an over-sea dispersal out of northern Australia or Papua New Guinea 3 to 5 million years ago. Essential oil yield and composition was assessed for 100 S. album trees growing in the collection, ranging in age from 8 to 17 years. Oil content of heartwood ranged from 30 mg g-1 to 60 mg g-1, and the transition zone 36 mg g-1 to 90 mg g-1. Sapwood contained almost no sesquiterpene oils. Despite the highly variable total oil yields, the chemical profile of the oil did not vary, suggesting there was limited genetic diversity within this region of the genome. Strong, positive correlations existed between v sesquiterpenoids in the essential oil of S. album. ... These represent the first TPS genes to be isolated from sandalwood and will enable further elucidation of oil biosynthesis genes. This thesis compiles a three-pronged approach to understanding the underlying causes of oil yield variation in S. album. As a species for which so little is known, the research presented here provides a major leap forward for tree improvement, breeding and silviculture. Hence the best of Santalum album research is presented.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008


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