Chromosome identification is essential for linking sequence and chromosomal maps, verifying sequence assemblies, showing structural variations and tracking inheritance or recombination of chromosomes and chromosomal segments during evolution and breeding programs. Unfortunately, identification of individual chromosomes and chromosome arms has been a major challenge for some economically important crop species with a near-continuous chromosome size range and similar morphology. Here, we developed oligonucleotide-based chromosome-specific probes that enabled us to establish a reference chromosome identification system for oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq., 2n = 32). Massive oligonucleotide sequence pools were anchored to individual chromosome arms using dual and triple fluorescent in situ hybridization (EgOligoFISH). Three fluorescently tagged probe libraries were developed to contain, in total 52,506 gene-rich single-copy 47-mer oligonucleotides spanning each 0.2-0.5 Mb across strategically placed chromosome regions. They generated 19 distinct FISH signals and together with rDNA probes enabled identification of all 32 E. guineensis chromosome arms. The probes were able to identify individual homoeologous chromosome regions in the related Arecaceae palm species: American oil palm (Elaeis oleifera), date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) and coconut (Cocos nucifera) showing the comparative organization and concerted evolution of genomes in the Arecaceae. The oligonucleotide probes developed here provide a valuable approach to chromosome arm identification and allow tracking chromosome transfer in hybridization and breeding programs in oil palm, as well as comparative studies within Arecaceae.
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