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Melilotus, an annual or biennial herb, belongs to the tribe Trifolieae (Leguminosae) and consists of 19 species. As an important green manure crop, diverse Melilotus species have different values as feed and medicine. To identify different Melilotus species, we examined the efficiency of five candidate regions as barcodes, including the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) and two chloroplast loci, rbcL and matK, and two non-coding loci, trnH-psbA and trnL-F. In total, 198 individuals from 98 accessions representing 18 Melilotus species were sequenced for these five potential barcodes. Based on inter-specific divergence, we analysed sequences and confirmed that each candidate barcode was able to identify some of the 18 species. The resolution of a single barcode and its combinations ranged from 33.33% to 88.89%. Analysis of pairwise distances showed that matK+rbcL+trnL-F+trnH-psbA+ITS (MRTPI) had the greatest value and rbcL the least. Barcode gap values and similarity value analyses confirmed these trends. The results indicated that an ITS region, successfully identifying 13 of 18 species, was the most appropriate single barcode and that the combination of all five potential barcodes identified 16 of the 18 species. We conclude that MRTPI is the most effective tool for Melilotus species identification. Taking full advantage of the barcode system, a clear taxonomic relationship can be applied to identify Melilotus species and enhance their practical production.


Fan Wu, Jinxing Ma, Yuqin Meng, Daiyu Zhang, Blaise Pascal Muvunyi, Kai Luo, Hongyan Di, Wenli Guo, Yanrong Wang, Baochang Feng, Jiyu Zhang. Potential DNA barcodes for Melilotus species based on five single loci and their combinations. PloS one. 2017;12(9):e0182693

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PMID: 28910286

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