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Rhodiola integrifolia: hybrid origin and medicinal ancestry.

Objective. The plant genus Rhodiola is predominantly Asian, but three species are native to North America: Rhodiola integrifolia, Rhodiola rosea, and Rhodiola rhodantha. R. rosea is known as a medicinal plant and has a long tradition of use in Asia. R. integrifolia has historically been considered a subspecies of R. rosea and has later been proposed to be of hybrid origin with the potential parent taxa being R. rosea and R. rhodantha. This hypothesis was mainly based on morphological similarity and chromosome counts, but has never been tested through sequence analysis. The objective of our work was to investigate the ancestry of R. integrifolia through DNA sequence analysis and thereby clarify some of the taxonomic discrepancies that exist in the literature that describes the traditional use of R. integrifolia and R. rosea in North America.

Methods. Sequence analysis of the chloroplast glutamine synthetase gene, a single-copy nuclear gene, was used to infer relationship between the Rhodiola species.

Results. Glutamine synthetase sequences obtained from R. integrifolia plants were either identical to R. rosea sequences or were recombinant sequences that were partly identical to R. rosea and partly to R. rhodantha, but not to R. semenovii or R. algida, the two closest Asian relatives of R. rhodantha.

Conclusions. Our data support the hybrid origin of R. integrifolia. The parental taxa are most likely R. rosea and R. rhodantha. This ancestry of R. integrifolia may strengthen the role of R. integrifolia as a medicinal plant. Pharmacological or phytochemical studies have not been done. Comparative analysis with the medicinally used parental species R. rosea would reveal how much of the parental properties have been retained in the hybrid species R. integrifolia.

Ursula Schittko and Jocelyn Grann

Department of Biology, Minot State University, Minot ND 58707
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Author:Schittko, Ursula; Grann, Jocelyn
Publication:Proceedings of the North Dakota Academy of Science
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2008
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