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Planta Med. 2006 Feb;72(3):241-7.

The use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the identification of ephedra DNA in dietary supplements.

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National Center for Natural Products Research and Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Pharmacognosy, School of Pharmacy, University of Mississippi, USA.


As part of a continuing research effort to develop chemical and genetic authentication profiles of botanicals, an investigation was performed with the goal to detect, identify and verify Ephedra sinica Stapf DNA in dietary supplements such as plant mixtures and tablets/capsules. We amplified and sequenced the chloroplast psbA-trnH spacer from 21 Ephedra spp. and from two of their closest relatives, Gnetum gnemon L. and Welwitschia mirabilis Hook. Based on sequence comparisons, we identified regions unique to all of the Ephedra spp. samples analyzed. We concluded that the psbA-trnH spacer sequence could be used as a molecular marker. Based on this spacer sequence, we designed Ephedra spp.-specific primers that can help to identify Ephedra spp. DNA in plant mixtures containing as little as 1/1,000 part of Ephedra spp. tissue. We used a DNA extraction method that allows for quick DNA isolation from plant mixtures for PCR analysis.

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