A Tree is Barcoded in Brooklyn

Figure 1 of the Plant Barcoding paperScrolling through some of my regular podcasts the other day I came across this tidbit about bioinformatics growing in New York (among other things, or course!):

Barcoding Plant DNA (I hope the embed of the audio file works, first time I’m trying that…)

It is a discussion with Dr. Damon Little, a curator of bioinformatics from the New York Botanical Garden.  The focus of the discussion is the recent publication of the CBOL Plant Working Group which has settled on the regions that will be used for barcoding plants.

If you aren’t familiar with barcoding efforts yet, you can check out Jennifer’s prior post with some background and great links.  Essentially a small snippet of DNA sequence is used to (hopefully) uniquely identify a given species.  This can be stored in a database–Dr. Little of the NY Botanical Garden refers to GenBank at NCBI, but there are other sites as well.  I was just reading about the web interface for barcoding called iBarcode.org for analyzing and managing this sort of data.

The Consortium for the Barcode Of Life Plant Working Group summary press release of this work can be found here.   The paper that describes the work is Open Access in PNAS here.  The paper describes the genes that had been candidates for the barcode, and the ones that were selected (rbcL + matK).  They described primer selection and sequencing results for the series they examined.  They evaluate which ones meet the barcoding standard criteria and provide the selections.  They use MUSCLE to examine the sequence alignments.

This is an excellent effort on many fronts.  Just assessing and cataloging biodiversity is useful itself, but this can also help to identify plants that are claimed to be used in food or medicine products to see if that is what’s really in there.  It can help combat poaching of protected species–for example, it can identify wood harvested that shouldn’t have been taken for lumber.

Glad to see this work moving forward and getting out in front of the public!

Related links

Podcast direct page: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/episodes/2009/07/29/segments/137623

NYBG: http://www.nybg.org/

Barcode blog: http://phe.rockefeller.edu/barcode/blog/

Scientific American article on the topic: http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/60-second-science/post.cfm?id=botanists-agree-on-dna-barcode-for-2009-07-29

Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL): http://www.barcoding.si.edu/

References
CBOL Plant Working Group (2009). A DNA barcode for land plants PNAS, 106 (31), 12794-12797 : 10.1073/pnas.0905845106

Singer, G., & Hajibabaei, M. (2009). iBarcode.org: web-based molecular biodiversity analysis BMC Bioinformatics, 10 (Suppl 6) DOI: 10.1186/1471-2105-10-S6-S14

Edgar, R. (2004). MUSCLE: multiple sequence alignment with high accuracy and high throughput Nucleic Acids Research, 32 (5), 1792-1797 DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkh340