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Biomed Res Int. 2019 Mar 3;2019:5921725. doi: 10.1155/2019/5921725. eCollection 2019.

Identification and Phylogenetic Analysis of the Complete Chloroplast Genomes of Three Ephedra Herbs Containing Ephedrine.

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Engineering Research Center of Tradition Chinese Medicine Resource, Ministry of Education, Institute of Medicinal Plant Development, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College, Beijing 100193, China.
Institute of Chinese Materia Medica, China Academy of Chinese Medicinal Sciences, Beijing 100700, China.
Key Laboratory of Plant Biotechnology in Universities of Shandong Province, College of Life Sciences, Qingdao Agricultural University, Qingdao 266109, China.


Ephedrae Herba and Ephedrae Radix et Rhizoma (Mahuang) have been used as Chinese herbal medicines. Ephedra plants mainly live in deserts and have good governance of desertification. Despite their important medicinal and environmental protection value, dietary supplements containing ephedrine from Ephedra species may threaten the health of people. Morphological resemblance amongst species causes difficulty in identifying the original species of Ephedra herbs. Chloroplast (CP) genome shows good prospects in identification and phylogenetic analysis. This study introduced the structures of the CP genomes of three Ephedra species and analysed their phylogenetic relationships. Three complete CP genomes of Ephedra showed four-part annular structures, namely, two single-copy regions and two inverted repeat regions. The entire CP genomes of three Ephedra species in terms of size were 109,550 bp (E. sinica), 109,667 bp (E. intermedia), and 109,558 bp (E. equisetina). Each CP genome of the three Ephedra species encoded 118 genes, including 73 protein-coding genes, 37 tRNA genes and 8 ribosomal RNA genes. Eleven high-variation regions were screened through mVISTA to be potential specific DNA barcodes for identifying Ephedra species. Maximum likelihood and maximum parsimony trees showed that CP genomes could be used to identify Ephedra species. The Ephedra species had a close phylogenetic relationship with Gnetum species and Welwitschia mirabilis. This research provided valuable information for the identification and phylogenetic analysis of gymnosperms and drug safety of Ephedra.

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