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      An In silico approach for the evaluation of DNA barcodes

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          Abstract

          Background

          DNA barcoding is a key tool for assessing biodiversity in both taxonomic and environmental studies. Essential features of barcodes include their applicability to a wide spectrum of taxa and their ability to identify even closely related species. Several DNA regions have been proposed as barcodes and the region selected strongly influences the output of a study. However, formal comparisons between barcodes remained limited until now. Here we present a standard method for evaluating barcode quality, based on the use of a new bioinformatic tool that performs in silico PCR over large databases. We illustrate this approach by comparing the taxonomic coverage and the resolution of several DNA regions already proposed for the barcoding of vertebrates. To assess the relationship between in silico and in vitro PCR, we also developed specific primers amplifying different species of Felidae, and we tested them using both kinds of PCR

          Results

          Tests on specific primers confirmed the correspondence between in silico and in vitro PCR. Nevertheless, results of in silico and in vitro PCRs can be somehow different, also because tuning PCR conditions can increase the performance of primers with limited taxonomic coverage. The in silico evaluation of DNA barcodes showed a strong variation of taxonomic coverage (i.e., universality): barcodes based on highly degenerated primers and those corresponding to the conserved region of the Cyt-b showed the highest coverage. As expected, longer barcodes had a better resolution than shorter ones, which are however more convenient for ecological studies analysing environmental samples.

          Conclusions

          In silico PCR could be used to improve the performance of a study, by allowing the preliminary comparison of several DNA regions in order to identify the most appropriate barcode depending on the study aims.

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          Most cited references 21

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          A DNA barcode for land plants.

            (2009)
          DNA barcoding involves sequencing a standard region of DNA as a tool for species identification. However, there has been no agreement on which region(s) should be used for barcoding land plants. To provide a community recommendation on a standard plant barcode, we have compared the performance of 7 leading candidate plastid DNA regions (atpF-atpH spacer, matK gene, rbcL gene, rpoB gene, rpoC1 gene, psbK-psbI spacer, and trnH-psbA spacer). Based on assessments of recoverability, sequence quality, and levels of species discrimination, we recommend the 2-locus combination of rbcL+matK as the plant barcode. This core 2-locus barcode will provide a universal framework for the routine use of DNA sequence data to identify specimens and contribute toward the discovery of overlooked species of land plants.
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            Use of DNA barcodes to identify flowering plants.

            Methods for identifying species by using short orthologous DNA sequences, known as "DNA barcodes," have been proposed and initiated to facilitate biodiversity studies, identify juveniles, associate sexes, and enhance forensic analyses. The cytochrome c oxidase 1 sequence, which has been found to be widely applicable in animal barcoding, is not appropriate for most species of plants because of a much slower rate of cytochrome c oxidase 1 gene evolution in higher plants than in animals. We therefore propose the nuclear internal transcribed spacer region and the plastid trnH-psbA intergenic spacer as potentially usable DNA regions for applying barcoding to flowering plants. The internal transcribed spacer is the most commonly sequenced locus used in plant phylogenetic investigations at the species level and shows high levels of interspecific divergence. The trnH-psbA spacer, although short ( approximately 450-bp), is the most variable plastid region in angiosperms and is easily amplified across a broad range of land plants. Comparison of the total plastid genomes of tobacco and deadly nightshade enhanced with trials on widely divergent angiosperm taxa, including closely related species in seven plant families and a group of species sampled from a local flora encompassing 50 plant families (for a total of 99 species, 80 genera, and 53 families), suggest that the sequences in this pair of loci have the potential to discriminate among the largest number of plant species for barcoding purposes.
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              Dynamics of mitochondrial DNA evolution in animals: amplification and sequencing with conserved primers.

              With a standard set of primers directed toward conserved regions, we have used the polymerase chain reaction to amplify homologous segments of mtDNA from more than 100 animal species, including mammals, birds, amphibians, fishes, and some invertebrates. Amplification and direct sequencing were possible using unpurified mtDNA from nanogram samples of fresh specimens and microgram amounts of tissues preserved for months in alcohol or decades in the dry state. The bird and fish sequences evolve with the same strong bias toward transitions that holds for mammals. However, because the light strand of birds is deficient in thymine, thymine to cytosine transitions are less common than in other taxa. Amino acid replacement in a segment of the cytochrome b gene is faster in mammals and birds than in fishes and the pattern of replacements fits the structural hypothesis for cytochrome b. The unexpectedly wide taxonomic utility of these primers offers opportunities for phylogenetic and population research.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                BMC Genomics
                BMC Genomics
                BioMed Central
                1471-2164
                2010
                16 July 2010
                : 11
                : 434
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine, CNRS UMR 5553, Université Joseph Fourier, BP 53, F-38041 Grenoble Cedex 9, France
                [2 ]Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Milano. Via Celoria 26, 20133 Milano Italy
                [3 ]Dipartimento di Scienze dell'Ambiente e del Territorio, Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca. Piazza della Scienza 1, 20126 Milano Italy
                Article
                1471-2164-11-434
                10.1186/1471-2164-11-434
                3091633
                20637073
                Copyright ©2010 Ficetola et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Methodology Article

                Genetics

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