Detection of 40 bp insertion-deletion (INDEL) in mitochondrial control region among sambar (Rusa unicolor) populations in India
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The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region is extensively used in the phylogeography of species. We examined sequence variations in the mtDNA control region of sambar (Rusa unicolor) populations from the South, Central and North India.
Most of the samples collected from the south India exhibited a 40 bp insertion in the mtDNA control region. This insertion was not observed in the North and Central Indian populations.
This study provided a potential marker for molecular screening and identification of sambar populations in the form of a distinct 40 bp insertion. Some populations in South India did not exhibit this insertion. It indicates that there could be an ecological barrier that might be preventing the expansion of insertion-positive sambar population.
KeywordsSambar Genetic variation mtDNA control region Insertion-deletion
Convention on Biological Diversity
Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
hypervariable region I
Kalakkad-Mundunthurai Tiger Reserve
The sambar (Rusa unicolor) is the largest cervid species in Southeast Asia. In India, it is widely distributed from the Himalayan foothills to the southern limits. Seven subspecies of sambar are recognised, with R. u. unicolor occurring in India and Sri Lanka . Despite a large distribution range, very limited information is available on genetic variations for this species.
The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region has been used extensively in studying the population genetics of wild species, for example the tiger, Panthera tigris ; wild pig, Sus scrofa ; cervids ; sika deer, Cervus nippon ; roe deer, Capreolus capreolus ; white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus ; Chinese water deer, Hydropotes inermis inermis  and black muntjac, Muntiacus crinifrons . In the present study, we investigated genetic variations among sambar populations of selected zones of India. Sequences of the mtDNA hypervariable region I (HVR-I) were compared among the sambar populations of the South, Central and North India for evaluation of genetic variation.
Table showing 26 haplotypes (RUC1-26) with number of repeat in square bracket 
Discussion and conclusions
In several studies, insertion–deletion (INDEL) markers have been used in population genetics and forensics [10, 11, 12] as it is easy to use. In the present study, we used INDEL to describe a unique 40 bp insertion in the HVR-I (control) region that is found mostly in the sambar population from the South India. This unique molecular feature differentiated it from the other populations of sambar from India suggesting further investigation. It is apparent from genetic data that INDEL has a significant role in population structuring in sambar.
This study provided further insight into the genetic makeup of sambar. Analysis of samples collected from various parts of India revealed a high level of genetic variations among different populations. The percentage similarity and pairwise distance indicate that the insertion-positive haplotypes (RUC1–RUC5, RUC8–RUC15, RUC20 and RUC21) were significantly related and had a higher genetic distance from the other haplotypes (Table 2). We suspect that there could be a possible ecological barrier operating, which is separating majority of the South Indian population from the North and Central India. The 40 bp INDEL in the mtDNA region is a rapid marker for genetic screening and identification of these populations using a simple PCR and sequencing-based analysis.
Sampling and DNA extraction
The DNA extracted from above samples was used for PCR amplification of an approximately 600 bp long sequence of the mtDNA control region. A primer pair specific to the family Cervidae (deer) was used . The sequences of the primer are CervtPro “CCACYATCAACACCCAAAGC” and CervCRH “GCCCTGAARAAAGAACCAGATG”. PCR reactions were carried out in 20 µl reaction volumes using 1 × PCR buffer (10 mM Tris–HCl, pH 8.3, and 50 mM KCl), 1.5 mM MgCl2, 1 × BSA, 100 µM dNTPs, 4 pmol of each primer, 0.5 U AmpliTaq Gold DNA polymerase enzyme (Invitrogen Inc.) and 1 µl (~30 ng) of template DNA. The PCR conditions were initial denaturation at 95 °C for 10 min, followed by 35 cycles of denaturation at 95 °C for 45 sec, annealing at 54 °C for 40 sec and extension at 72 °C for 75 sec. The final extension was at 72 °C for 10 min. The efficiency and reliability of the PCR reactions were monitored using control reactions. PCR amplification was confirmed by electrophoresis on 2.2 % agarose gel stained with ethidium bromide (0.5 mg/ml) and visualised under a UV transilluminator.
DNA sequencing and analysis
The PCR products were treated with exonuclease-I and shrimp alkaline phosphatase for 15 min each at 37 and 80 °C. A BigDye terminator kit (version3.1) and an ABI 3130 Genetic Analyzer (Applied Biosystems) were used to generate DNA sequences from both the directions. The generated sequences were aligned by eye using Clustal W , available in the BioEdit package . Since the primer pair used in this study amplifies approximately 40–50 bases of Proline tRNA at the beginning of the PCR reaction, the initial sequence of Proline tRNA was deleted from the aligned sequences. Hence, the start sequence examined in this study was the first nucleotide of the control region. The aligned sequences of the control region were subjected to haplotype analysis using DnaSP  (Table 1). A percentage similarity matrix and pairwise distance matrix were generated using Clustal W  and MEGA 5  (Table 2). Network 4.613 software (http://www.fluxus-engineering.com) was used to generate median-joining network tree (Fig. 3).
SKG and SAH conceived and designed this study. SKG, AK and AG carried out the sample collection. SKG and AK performed sequencing. SKG executed statistical analysis. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
This work was funded by the WII and Scientific & Engineering Research Board, Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India. We thank the Director and Dean, WII for their support. We also thank Dr. S. Shivaji, Former Outstanding Scientist, CCMB; Dr. Y.V. Jhala, Scientist G and Prof. Qamar Qureshi, Scientist G of WII for their support. The IT and RS & GIS Cell at WII is acknowledged for their support in the preparation of map. We sincerely acknowledge the help of Forest Departments of Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Assam and Tamil Nadu States for facilitating the sample collection.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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