Researchers push for standard DNA barcodes for plants

Jul 27, 2009

Two University of British Columbia researchers are part of an international team recommending standards for the DNA barcoding of land plants, a step they hope will lead to a universal system for identifying over 400,000 species, and ultimately boost conservation efforts.

Barcodes based on portions of DNA - the taxonomical equivalent to UPC barcodes on products - have already emerged as a viable solution for uniquely identifying species in many animal groups. However, because DNA varies less between plant species, determining which portions of plant DNA to use as a unique identifier has been a thorny issue.

The research team, which included scientists from more than 20 institutions around the world, selected two genomic regions - genes referred to as rbcL and matK - as the best candidates from which to generate barcode data.

Results of the four-year study are published this week in the .

"It's a pragmatic first step in solving a complex issue," says UBC botanist and Associate Professor Sean Graham, who conducted research on the project and helped author the study. "We've selected areas of DNA that are available in the vast majority of , could easily and accurately be sequenced, and when combined, provide a near-unique signature for barcoding."

Limiting the barcode to information generated from two DNA sites should help cut costs associated with sequencing and retrieving the correct information.

The researchers used 400 land plant samples to test the two-site solution. In 72% of cases they were immediately able to determine the correct species of plant, and in the rest of the cases were able to place the plant in a group of congeneric species.

"There's no doubt this will be refined in the future, but there is a need for a core barcoding standard now," says Graham, with the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research, and the Department of Botany. "Particular research projects with special needs could augment the system by adding a third DNA locus to their barcode if required."

Theoretically, any DNA barcoding standard would have to accommodate over 400,000 species of plants, and would be a key step toward establishing a central barcode database for taxonomy, agriculture and conservation.

The 2008 International Union for of Nature Red List categorized, 8,457 out of an evaluated 12,055 species of plants as endangered, but notes only four per cent of total plant have been evaluated. Those evaluations tend to focus on areas losing biodiversity and plants families that are endangered. Estimates of the total number of endangered plants vary from 13 per cent to 37 per cent.

Source: University of British Columbia (news : web)

Explore further: Fighting bacteria—with viruses

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

DNA 'barcode' identified for plants

Feb 05, 2008

A 'barcode' gene that can be used to distinguish between the majority of plant species on Earth has been identified by scientists who publish their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal today. ...

Identifying Canadian freshwater fish through DNA barcodes

Jun 18, 2008

New research by Canadian scientists, led by Nicolas Hubert at the Université Laval in Québec and published in this week's PLoS ONE brings some good news for those interested in the conservation of a number of highly-endangered ...

Cracking the species code for plants

Feb 17, 2009

A recent article published in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society searches for one or more short pieces of DNA code that could eventually be used in an automated fashion to reliably identify almost all land plant ...

DNA Barcodes: Are They Always Accurate?

Aug 26, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- DNA barcoding is a movement to catalog all life on earth by a simple standardized genetic tag, similar to stores labeling products with unique barcodes. The effort promises foolproof food ...

Study: DNA barcoding in danger of 'ringing up' wrong species

Aug 25, 2008

DNA barcoding is a movement to catalog all life on earth by a simple standardized genetic tag, similar to stores labeling products with unique barcodes. The effort promises foolproof food inspection, improved border security, ...

Recommended for you

Fighting bacteria—with viruses

Jul 24, 2014

Research published today in PLOS Pathogens reveals how viruses called bacteriophages destroy the bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which is becoming a serious problem in hospitals and healthcare institutes, due to its re ...

Atomic structure of key muscle component revealed

Jul 24, 2014

Actin is the most abundant protein in the body, and when you look more closely at its fundamental role in life, it's easy to see why. It is the basis of most movement in the body, and all cells and components ...

Brand new technology detects probiotic organisms in food

Jul 23, 2014

In the food industr, ity is very important to ensure the quality and safety of products consumed by the population to improve their properties and reduce foodborne illness. Therefore, a team of Mexican researchers ...

Protein evolution follows a modular principle

Jul 23, 2014

Proteins impart shape and stability to cells, drive metabolic processes and transmit signals. To perform these manifold tasks, they fold into complex three-dimensional shapes. Scientists at the Max Planck ...

Report on viruses looks beyond disease

Jul 22, 2014

In contrast to their negative reputation as disease causing agents, some viruses can perform crucial biological and evolutionary functions that help to shape the world we live in today, according to a new report by the American ...

User comments : 0