- •A botanical species identification method is proposed.
- •We reviewed findings of 2009 CBOL International Plant Working Group.
- •Alternative loci for forensic purposes were suggested.
The ambitious idea of using a short piece of DNA for large-scale species identification (DNA barcoding) is already a powerful tool for scientists and the application of this standard technique seems promising in a range of fields including forensic genetics. While DNA barcoding enjoyed a remarkable success for animal identification through cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) analysis, the attempts to identify a single barcode for plants remained a vain hope for a longtime. From the beginning, the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) showed a lack of agreement on a core plant barcode, reflecting the diversity of viewpoints. Different research groups advocated various markers with divergent set of criteria until the recent publication by the CBOL–Plant Working Group. After a four-year effort, in 2009 the International Team concluded to agree on standard markers promoting a multilocus solution (rbcL and matK), with 70–75% of discrimination to the species level. In 2009 our group firstly proposed the broad application of DNA barcoding principles as a tool for identification of trace botanical evidence through the analysis of two chloroplast loci (trnH-psbA and trnL-trnF) in plant species belonging to local flora. Difficulties and drawbacks that were encountered included a poor coverage of species in specific databases and the lack of authenticated reference sequences for the selected markers. Successful preliminary results were obtained providing an approach to progressively identify unknown plant specimens to a given taxonomic rank, usable by any non-specialist botanist or in case of a shortage of taxonomic expertise. Now we considered mandatory to update and to compare our previous findings with the new selected plastid markers (matK + rbcL), taking into account forensic requirements.
Features of all the four loci (the two previously analyzed trnH-psbA + trnL-trnF and matK + rbcL) were compared singly and in multilocus solutions to assess the most suitable combination for forensic botany.
Based on obtained results, we recommend the adoption of a two-locus combination with rbcL + trnH-psbA plastid markers, which currently best satisfies forensic needs for botanical species identification.
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Published online: October 15, 2014
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