Identification of Erythroxylum taxa by AFLP DNA analysis
Johnson EL, Saunders JA,
Mischke S, Helling CS, Emche SD.
Alternate Crops and Systems Laboratory,
Plant Sciences Institute,
Beltsville Agricultural Research Center,
10300 Baltimore Avenue,
20705-2350, Beltsville, MD, USA
Phytochemistry. 2003 Sep;64(1):187-97


Erythroxylum coca, indigenous to the Andean region of South America, is grown historically as a source of homeopathic medicine. However, in the last century, cultivation of E. coca and several closely-related species for the production of illicit cocaine has become a major global problem. Two subspecies, E. coca var. coca and E. coca var. ipadu, are almost indistinguishable phenotypically; a related cocaine-bearing species also has two subspecies (E. novogranatense var. novogranatense and E. novogranatense var. truxillense) that are phenotypically similar, but morphologically distinguishable. The purpose of this research was to discover unique AFLP DNA patterns ("genetic fingerprinting") that characterize the four taxa and then, if successful, to evaluate this approach for positive identification of the various species of coca. Of seven different AFLP primer pairs tested, a combination of five proved optimal in differentiating the four taxa as well as a non-cocaine-bearing species, E. aerolatum. This method of DNA fragment separation was selective, and faster, for coca identification, compared with analyses based on flavonoid chemotaxonomy. Using the 5-primer AFLP approach, 132 known and unknown coca leaf accessions were evaluated. Of these, 38 were collected in 1997-2001 from illicit coca fields in Colombia, and all were genetically differentiated from coca originating in Peru and Bolivia. Based on the DNA profiling, we believe that the Colombian coca now represents a hybridization of E. coca var. ipadu. Geographical profiling within Colombia also seems feasible as new coca production areas are developed or new types of coca are introduced within traditional growing areas.

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The coke-craving brain
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