Comparing DNA isolation methods for forest trees: quality, plastic footprint, and time-efficiency.
Guillardín L., MacKay JJ.
BACKGROUND: Genetic and genomic studies are seeing an increase in sample sizes together with a wider range of species investigated in response to environmental change concerns. In turn, these changes may come with challenges including the time and difficulty to isolate nucleic acids (DNA or RNA), the sequencing cost and environmental impacts of the growing amount of plastic waste generated in the process. Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii (Mirbel) Franco (PM), Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg. (TH) and Thuja plicata Donn ex D.Don (TP) are conifer species found in diverse woodlands both as natives and naturalized exotics. Our study was carried out whilst investigating their genetics to understand their population structure and potential for adaptation. RESULTS: In the present study, we compared two different DNA isolation methods, i.e., spin-column DNeasy plant mini kit (QIAGEN), and temperature-driven enzymatic cocktail Plant DNA Extraction (MicroGEM). The quantity of recovered DNA and the quality of DNA were assessed along with the plastic footprint and time needed for three tree species. Both methods were optimised and proven to provide enough DNA for each studied species. The yield of DNA for each method depended on the species: QIAGEN showed higher yield in P. menziesii and T. heterophylla, while T. plicata recovered similar amount of DNA for both methods. The DNA quality was investigated using DNA barcoding techniques by confirming species identity and species discrimination. No difference was detected in the PCR amplification of the two barcoding loci, (rbcL and trnH-psbA), and the recovered sequences between DNA isolation methods. Measurement of the plastic use and the processing time per sample indicated that MicroGEM had a 52.64% lower plastic footprint and was 51.8% faster than QIAGEN. CONCLUSIONS: QIAGEN gave higher yields in two of the species although both methods showed similar quality results across all species. However, MicroGEM was clearly advantageous to decrease the plastic footprint and improve the time efficiency. Overall, MicroGEM recovers sufficient and reliable DNA to perform common downstream analyses such as PCR and sequencing. Our findings illustrate the benefits of research and efforts towards developing more sustainable methods and techniques to reduce the environmental footprint of molecular analyses.