Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Spinal tap -- using cactus spines to isolate DNA

A novel method for extracting genomic DNA for Cactaceae

Isolation of DNA from some organisms is a routine procedure. For example, you can buy a kit at your local pharmacy or grocery store that allows you to swab the inside of your cheek and send the sample for DNA sequencing. However, for other organisms, DNA extraction is much more problematic. Researchers at Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, have developed a novel procedure that greatly simplifies genomic DNA isolation from cactus tissue.

For members of the family Cactaceae, isolation of genetic material can be difficult due to the presence of polysaccharide-based mucilage content and other secondary compounds. Although important for water storage, these compounds necessitate the use of toxic chemicals and numerous modifications to protocols for DNA extraction. Lead author Shannon D. Fehlberg and colleagues describe a novel method for isolation of DNA using cactus spines in the March issue of Applications in Plant Sciences (available for free viewing at

"I had worked with getting DNA out of cactus in the past where you use pieces of the epidermis, but it was messy and difficult to sample. It was also difficult to deal with in the lab because of the mucilage," says Fehlberg. "Now you can snip a spine and, while you have to grind the spine up, it is easy to collect and easy to store and you can follow the manufacturer's protocols for extraction—simplifying both the field and genetic work."

Considered to be modified leaves, spines contain significantly less mucilage content compared to other tissues commonly used for sampling in Cactaceae. Additionally, removal of cactus spines is less invasive than sampling epidermal tissue, which can damage plants and expose the underlying soft tissue to pathogens.

"Although you can cut a fairly small sample of epidermal tissue, this can be problematic if you are working with living collections or endangered species. Not only is it much easier to clip a spine, it is also more aesthetic and less harmful," comments Fehlberg.

As the cost of DNA sequencing has dramatically decreased, its use has grown exponentially. Because it allows the comparison of individuals within and between populations, DNA sequencing has played an important role in understanding genetic diversity. "For example, in the plant species I'm studying, the species boundaries are not clear," says Fehlberg. "Genetics is important for determining what can be considered a cohesive group. "

Knowledge of genetic variation among populations will provide insight to the persistence of a species and inform conservation efforts. Fehlberg notes, "Genetics is helpful in determining how similar populations are to one another and how connected they are. We're able to use both genetics and biological information to determine which populations are most unique and which are most threatened."

Applications in Plant Sciences (APPS) is a monthly, online-only, peer-reviewed, open access journal focusing on new tools, technologies, and protocols in all areas of the plant sciences. It is published by the Botanical Society of America (, a non-profit membership society with a mission to promote botany, the field of basic science dealing with the study and inquiry into the form, function, development, diversity, reproduction, evolution, and uses of plants and their interactions within the biosphere. The first issue of APPS published in January 2013; APPS is available as part of BioOne's Open Access collection (

For further information, please contact the APPS staff at

Beth Parada | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New study reveals what's behind a tarantula's blue hue
01.12.2015 | University of California - San Diego

nachricht Tracing a path toward neuronal cell death
01.12.2015 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How do Landslides control the weathering of rocks?

Chemical weathering in mountains depends on the process of erosion.

Chemical weathering of rocks over geological time scales is an important control on the stability of the climate. This weathering is, in turn, highly dependent...

Im Focus: How Cells in the Developing Ear ‘Practice’ Hearing

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular chain of events that enables the cells to make “sounds” on their own, essentially “practicing” their ability to process sounds in the world around them.

The researchers, who describe their experiments in the Dec. 3 edition of the journal Cell, show how hair cells in the inner ear can be activated in the absence...

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

European Geosciences Union meeting: Media registration now open (EGU 2016 media advisory 1)

01.12.2015 | Event News

Urbanisation and migration from rural areas challenging agriculture in Eastern Europe

30.11.2015 | Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Latest News

USGS projects large loss of Alaska permafrost by 2100

01.12.2015 | Earth Sciences

New study reveals what's behind a tarantula's blue hue

01.12.2015 | Life Sciences

Climate Can Grind Mountains Faster Than They Can Be Rebuilt

01.12.2015 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>