Journal Article

DNA barcodes from four loci provide poor resolution of taxonomic groups in the genus Crataegus

Mehdi Zarrei, Nadia Talent, Maria Kuzmina, Jeanette Lee, Jensen Lund, Paul R. Shipley, Saša Stefanović and Timothy A. Dickinson


Published on behalf of Annals of Botany Company

Volume 7, issue
Published online April 2015 | e-ISSN: 2041-2851 | DOI:

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  • Plant Sciences and Forestry
  • Plant Evolution


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DNA barcodes can facilitate identification of organisms especially when morphological characters are limited or unobservable. To what extent this potential is realized in specific groups of plants remains to be determined. Libraries of barcode sequences from well-studied authoritatively identified plants represented by herbarium voucher specimens are needed in order for DNA barcodes to serve their intended purpose, where this is possible, and to understand the reasons behind their failure to do so, when this occurs. We evaluated four loci, widely regarded as universal DNA barcodes for plants, for their utility in hawthorn species identification. Three plastid regions, matK, rbcLa and psbA-trnH, and the internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) of nuclear ribosomal DNA discriminate only some of the species of Crataegus that can be recognized on the basis of their morphology etc. This is, in part, because in Rosaceae tribe Maleae most individual plastid loci yield relatively little taxonomic resolution and, in part, because the effects of allopolyploidization have not been eliminated by concerted evolution of the ITS regions. Although individual plastid markers provided generally poor resolution of taxonomic groups in Crataegus, a few species were notable exceptions. In contrast, analyses of concatenated sequences of the 3 plastid barcode loci plus 11 additional plastid loci gave a well-resolved maternal phylogeny. In the ITS2 tree, different individuals of some species formed groups with taxonomically unrelated species. This is a sign of lineage sorting due to incomplete concerted evolution in ITS2. Incongruence between the ITS2 and plastid trees is best explained by hybridization between different lineages within the genus. In aggregate, limited between-species variation in plastid loci, hybridization and a lack of concerted evolution in ITS2 all combine to limit the utility of standard barcoding markers in Crataegus. These results have implications for authentication of hawthorn materials in natural health products.

Keywords: Gametophytic apomixis; hawthorn; hybridization; ITS2; Maleae; natural health products; plastid DNA; polyploidy; Rosaceae

Journal Article.  13433 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry ; Plant Evolution

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