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Aquilaria malaccensis (Thymelaeaceae) is the main source of high-grade agarwood in Southeast Asia. Aggressive collections and trade activities over the past decades have put great pressure on the natural stands and raised concerns over the long-term survival potential of A. malaccensis. Tracking and authentication of agarwood require method with a high degree of accuracy. Therefore, this study aimed to develop DNA databases of A. malaccensis as the tracking tools at species, population and individual levels for forensic identification and chain of custody certification. Using two cpDNA (rbcL and matK) and an rDNA (ITS2) markers, species identification database of Aquilaria was developed to distinguish A. malaccensis from A. hirta, A. microcarpa, A. beccariana, A. crassna, A. sinensis and A. rostrata. In addition, based on 35 populations of A. malaccensis throughout Peninsular Malaysia, cpDNA haplotype and STR allele frequency databases were developed for population and individual identification. A haplotype distribution map based on 29 haplotypes derived from seven cpDNA showed that the A. malaccensis in Peninsular Malaysia can be associated to Kedah-Perak and Kelantan-Johor regions. Similarly, genetic relatedness and Bayesian clustering analyses based on 10 STR markers also divided the 35 populations into two main genetic clusters, corresponding to Kedah-Perak and Kelantan-Johor regions. The STR allele frequency databases were established and characterized according to these two regions. To determine the performance of the STR allele frequency databases for population identification, independent self-assignment tests showed that the percentage of individuals correctly assigned into the origin population was 93.88% in Kedah-Perak and 90.29% in Kelantan-Johor. For the STR allele frequency databases to be used for individual identification, conservativeness tests showed that the θ should be adjusted to 0.250 and 0.200 in the Kedah-Perak and Kelantan-Johor databases, respectively. To ensure consistency in allele calling for the dinucleotide repeat loci across different electrophoretic platforms or laboratories, allelic ladders have been developed for the 10 STR loci. Two case studies are presented of how these databases were used to track A. malaccensis to the origin population and stump. These databases are ready to be used to provide admissible forensic evidence for legal proceedings against the illegal harvesters of agarwood and for agarwood certification to meet the consumer country regulations. Copyright © 2022 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Soon Leong Lee, Nurul-Farhanah Zakaria, Lee Hong Tnah, Chin Hong Ng, Kevin Kit Siong Ng, Chai Ting Lee, Kah Hoo Lau, Lillian Swee Lian Chua. DNA databases of a CITES listed species Aquilaria malaccensis (Thymelaeaceae) as the tracking tools for forensic identification and chain of custody certification. Forensic science international. Genetics. 2022 Mar;57:102658

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PMID: 34998185

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