Indexed on: 01 Nov '08Published on: 01 Nov '08Published in: PloS one
During the past years an increasing number of studies have focussed on the use of herbarium specimens for molecular phylogenetic investigations and several comparative studies have been published. However, in the studies reported so far usually rather large amounts of material (typically around 100 mg) were sampled for DNA extraction. This equals an amount roughly equivalent to 8 cm(2) of a medium thick leaf. For investigating the phylogeny of plant pathogens, such large amounts of tissue are usually not available or would irretrievably damage the specimens. Through systematic comparison of 19 DNA extraction protocols applied to only 2 mg of infected leaf tissue and testing 15 different DNA polymerases, we could successfully amplify a mitochondrial DNA region (cox2; approximately 620 bp) from herbarium specimens well over a hundred years old. We conclude that DNA extraction and the choice of DNA polymerase are crucial factors for successful PCR amplification from small samples of historic herbarium specimens. Through a combination of suitable DNA extraction protocols and DNA polymerases, only a fraction of the preserved plant material commonly used is necessary for successful PCR amplification. This facilitates the potential use of a far larger number of preserved specimens for molecular phylogenetic investigation and provides access to a wealth of genetic information in preserved in specimens deposited in herbaria around the world without reducing their scientific or historical value.