Panax L. (Family: Araliaceae), which is commonly known as ginseng, is one of the most important medicinal herbs. The rhizome of the genus Panax is used as a source of medicine. Identification of raw or fresh samples of Panax species is challenging, owing to occurrence of high level of morphological variation within the genus as well as even within the populations too; therefore, the adulteration is common in its raw material trading which ultimately reduces the efficacy of the drug obtained from it. The internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) sequence of nuclear ribosomal DNA is regarded as one of the important candidates for DNA barcoding. Cladistic analysis and ITS2 sequence variation (primary and secondary structure) among the 16 species of Panax using tools and techniques of molecular phylogenetics and bioinformatics were undertaken to demonstrate the assessment of ITS2 sequence of nrDNA based molecular signature of Panax for potential use by the pharmaceutical industries in the identification of Panax at species level, in order to ensure the quality of drug obtained from it. The ITS2 sequences were found successful in discriminating the Panax species.
Key words: Panax, Ginseng, Araliaceae, internal transcribed spacer (ITS), nuclear ribosomal DNA (nrDNA), molecular signature.
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