The banana is a staple food crop and represents an important trade commodity for millions of people living in tropical and subtropical countries. The most important edible banana clones originated from natural crosses between diploid Musa balbisiana
and various subspecies of M. acuminata
. It is worth mentioning that evolution and speciation in the Musaceae family were accompanied by large-scale chromosome structural changes, indicating possible reasons for lower fertility or complete sterility of these vegetatively propagated clones. Chromosomal changes, often accompanied by changes in genome size, are one of the driving forces underlying speciation in plants. They can clarify the genomic constitution of edible bananas and shed light on their origin and on diversification processes in members of the Musaceae family. This article reviews the development of molecular cytogenetic approaches, ranging from classical fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) using common cytogenetic markers to oligo painting FISH. We discuss differences in genome size and chromosome number across the Musaceae family in addition to the development of new chromosome-specific cytogenetic probes and their use in genome structure and comparative karyotype analysis. The impact of these methodological advances on our knowledge of Musa
genome evolution at the chromosomal level is demonstrated. In addition to citing published results, we include our own new unpublished results and outline future applications of molecular cytogenetics in banana research.
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