The genus Coffea L. has around 100 native species distributed in tropical and subtropical areas in Africa, and the most important economic species are C. arabica and C. canephora. C. arabica is exceptional in the genus since it is the only species so far analyzed which is self-compatible, and a natural polyploid with 2n=4x=44 chromosomes; it is considered to be a segmental allopolyploid because it presents a disomic inheritance and a regular meiotic behavior. All other species in the genus are self-incompatible diploids with 2n=2x=22. Cytogenetic studies in Coffea, undertaken since 1912, have followed various phases: initial studies were limited only to establishing chromosome counts. Subsequent studies characterized the karyotypes of various species using conventional cytological techniques. As the somatic metaphase chromosomes of coffee are very small (1 - 3 µm) and morphologically symmetrical, these studies resulted in uniform karyotypes that show almost no differences among species. Since genetic improvement of coffee trees has progressed mainly by means of interspecific hybridizations involving wild species, analyses of microsporogenesis in species and hybrids were needed to establish their genetic affinity and relationships. The first successful attempts to differentiate coffee chromosomes longitudinally were made by mapping pachytene chromomeric patterns and by C and NOR banding techniques. From 1998 onwards, the use of banding techniques with the fluorochromes DAPI and CMA3, and also the cytomolecular technique FISH using rDNA probes, has increased the longitudinal differentiation of coffee chromosomes. The use of the GISH technique with total genomic DNA has revealed the parental species that originated C. arabica species.
Coffea; chromosomal characterization; karyotype; meiotic behavior; chromomere pattern; chromosome banding; molecular cytogenetics