Siberian apricot (Prunus sibirica L.), an ecologically and economically important tree species with a high degree of tolerance to a variety of extreme environmental conditions, is widely distributed across the mountains of northeastern and northern China, eastern and southeastern regions of Mongolia, Eastern Siberia, and the Maritime Territory of Russia. However, few studies have examined the genetic diversity and population structure of this species. Using 31 nuclear microsatellites, we investigated the level of genetic diversity and population structure of Siberian apricot sampled from 22 populations across China. The number of alleles per locus ranged from 5 to 33, with an average of 19.323 alleles. The observed heterozygosity and expected heterozygosity ranged from 0.037 to 0.874 and 0.040 to 0.924 with average values of 0.639 and 0.774, respectively. A STRUCTURE-based analysis clustered all of the populations into four genetic clusters. Significant genetic differentiation was observed between all population pairs. A hierarchical analysis of molecular variance attributed about 94% of the variation to within populations. No significant difference was detected between the wild and semi-wild groups, indicating that recent cultivation practices have had little impact on the genetic diversity of Siberian apricot. The Mantel test showed that the genetic distance among the populations was not significantly correlated with geographic distance (r = 0.4651, p = 0.9940). Our study represents the most comprehensive investigation of the genetic diversity and population structure of Siberian apricot in China to date, and it provides valuable information for the collection of genetic resources for the breeding of Siberian apricot and related species.
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