A fully automatable enzymatic method for DNA extraction from plant tissues
- Jean-François Manen†1Email author,
- Olga Sinitsyna†2,
- Lorène Aeschbach1,
- Alexander V Markov2 and
- Arkady Sinitsyn†2
© Manen et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2005
Received: 12 July 2005
Accepted: 03 November 2005
Published: 03 November 2005
DNA extraction from plant tissues, unlike DNA isolation from mammalian tissues, remains difficult due to the presence of a rigid cell wall around the plant cells. Currently used methods inevitably require a laborious mechanical grinding step, necessary to disrupt the cell wall for the release of DNA.
Using a cocktail of different carbohydrases, a method was developed that enables a complete digestion of the plant cell walls and subsequent DNA release. Optimized conditions for the digestion reaction minimize DNA shearing and digestion, and maximize DNA release from the plant cell. The method gave good results in 125 of the 156 tested species.
In combination with conventional DNA isolation techniques, the new enzymatic method allows to obtain high-yield, high-molecular weight DNA, which can be used for many applications, including genome characterization by AFLP, RAPD and SSR. Automation of the protocol (from leaf disks to DNA) is possible with existing workstations.
DNA extraction from plant tissues, unlike DNA isolation from mammalian tissues, remains difficult due to the presence of a rigid cell wall surrounding the plant cells. Currently used methods inevitably require a laborious mechanical grinding step, necessary to disrupt the cell wall for the release of DNA. The field of plant molecular biology is therefore at a disadvantage, especially when an automated high-throughput system for the isolation of PCR-ready genomic DNA is required in population genetics, species identification, biodiversity investigation, selection screening, food control and plant biotechnology. QIAGEN GmbH has developed a 96-well grinding method (MagAttract 96 Plant kit), but it requires a special mixer mill, a centrifugation step and consequently is not fully automatable.
Large scale automatable DNA mini-prep facilities were recently offered by several companies for animal tissues (e.g. DYNAL ASA, Oslo, Norway; AGOWA, Berlin, Germany; QIAGEN GmbH, Hilden, Germany; BILATEC AG, Mannheim, Germany; ROCHE Diagnostics, Rotkreuz, Switzerland; PROMEGA Corporation, Madison, WI, USA; SCIL Diagnostic GmbH, Martinsried, Germany). However, because of their cell wall, the automation of the isolation of DNA from plants needs improvements. Whereas animal tissues need only a lysis buffer containing detergents and proteinase K to release their DNA, plant tissues need in addition a mixture of carbohydrase enzymes able to digest the cell wall. Enzymatic digestion of the cell wall of leaf tissues is routinely used for the production of protoplasts but this approach was never adapted for routine isolation of DNA from plant tissue.
We describe here a new method for the lysis of plant tissues using a powerful cocktail of enzymes isolated from Trichoderma longibrachiatum, which digests the cell walls in order to liquefy the tissue without the need of grinding. The enzymatically released DNA is then isolated with commercially available magnetic beads.
As indicated by Fig. 5B, lambda DNA/Hind III does not show degradation during incubation with the enzymatic mix, nor in the presence of an overnight digesting leaf disk of Ilex at 50°C. This indicates that the digestion mix does not contain active DNase in the condition used for digestion, and that in the case of Ilex endogenous plant DNase are inactivated by the digestion mix.
Fig. 5 also shows PCR amplification of a plastid sequence (Fig. 5C), a multi-copy nuclear sequence (Fig. 5D) and a single-copy nuclear sequence (Fig. 5E) from 1 μl of DNA isolated by the enzymatic method from Ilex aquifolium, Aster amellus and Solanum tuberosum. The primers have been designed for the genus Ilex. Thus the few negative PCR in other species probably result from primer mismatch and not from polymerase inhibition. RAPD amplifications are also shown (Fig. 5F).
To the best of our knowledge, only a few non-grinding methods for isolation of DNA from plant tissue have been proposed, but only low amounts of DNA are generally obtained. Jhingan  followed by Williams and Ronald  proposed a chemical method using potassium ethyl xanthogenate that damages the cell wall, subsequently disrupts cells and releases the DNA. The method involves many steps and the amount of DNA released is generally ten times lower than traditional methods  and than our enzymatic method. A non-grinding method is proposed by SIGMA (Extract-N-Amp Plant PCR kit). It is not based on enzymatic digestion of the cell wall and the leaf tissue usually does not appear to be degraded after the treatment with the lysis buffer. The DNA extract is extremely crude, of low DNA content and often contains PCR inhibitors. Consequently, a 10-fold dilution of the extract is necessary to dilute inhibitors and the template concentration is at the limit of detection. Another method is based on the squashing of plant tissues on a nylon membrane  and subsequent elution of the little amount of DNA bound to the membrane for PCR amplification. An adaptation of this method is commercialized by WHATMAN (FTA® gene card). In conclusion, the advantage of our enzymatic non-grinding method of DNA extraction compared with the above-described methods is that a large amount of high-quality DNA is isolated and that it is fully automatable.
In a paper on the comparative analysis of different DNA extraction protocols from plant tissues, Csaikl et al.  wrote that "the problem of DNA extraction is still an important issue in the field of plant molecular biology" and that "a chemical tissue disruption method as used in mammalian cells might be the method of choice". Plant DNA purification is time-consuming and laborious. It is considered as the "bottleneck" of basic and applied research . Thus there is a need for a quick, easy and automated method of plant DNA isolation. The method that we present here exactly fits this expectation.
For a few species (approximately 25%, based on our results, see Additional file 1 and Fig. 2B) the method is not effective, but simple modifications of the protocol (particularly the digestion buffer) is expected to resolve the problem in the future. As the chemistry of plant tissues (contrary to animal tissues) is highly variable depending of species, it is not surprising that variable results are obtained. It was exactly the same situation with traditional DNA extraction methods where "recalcitrant" species needed further adaptations [6, 7]. There are two situations in which the described protocol does not work (see Additional file 1). In the first case, the leaf disk of some species is not digested by the enzymatic cocktail. This is because some particular chemical compounds inhibit the enzymatic cocktail. Quercus represents such a case and high level of polyphenols (tannin) is suspected. Modifications of the digestion buffer by the addition of polyvinyl pyrrolidone (PVP ), or polyvinyl polypyrrolidone (PVPP ) or polyethylene glycol (PEG ) in order to neutralize polyphenolic compounds could greatly improve the method for "recalcitrant" species. In the second case, the leaf disk is perfectly digested but DNA is not released or, most probably, is highly degraded. This could be due to the release of endogenous recalcitrant nucleases or oxidative polyphenols during the digestion. In other cases (see Betula sp. in Additional file 1) different results can be obtained according the season of leaf harvesting, as it can be expected because of the modification of the chemical composition of the cell wall during the year . To deal with species-dependent variability, it is obviously necessary to determine the optimal digestion conditions for each plant sample. In fact, the duration of incubation is not a problem because the protocol is entirely automatable from solid leaf disks to the PCR-ready DNA. Even if, in some case, it could be longer than mechanical grinding in reaction tube or plate, any human intervention is needed.
In summary, the protocol is simple and reliable, does not require grinding, centrifuging, or the use of hazardous chemicals. A large number of samples can be processed simultaneously, and full automation of the protocol is possible with existing workstations. Many different species were successfully tested. The method can be adapted to each species by modification of the digestion buffer, of the amount of the enzymatic cocktail added during the digestion or of the digestion time.
The method is perfectly adapted to situations when high-throughput isolation of PCR-ready genomic DNA is required. Moreover, because of the high-yield and high-molecular weight DNA reliably obtained, sensitive PCR-based techniques could be applied: AFLP (Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism), RAPD (Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA), SSR (Simple Sequence Repeat polymorphism).
A mixture of cell wall degrading enzymes was isolated from Trichoderma longibrachiatum Rifai (strain TW-1, deposited in the Russian Collection of Microorganisms under the number VKMF-3934D). The fermenting medium (7 liters) consisted of wheat bran (25 g/L), solid corn steep (25 g/L), hydrolyzed starch (45 g/L), mineral salts and fed by lactose (25% solution at feeding rate of 50 ml/h) after the first 48 hours of fermentation. The fermentation was carried out at 32°C for 144 h. Extracellular secreted enzymes were then isolated by centrifugation (5000 g for 30 min.) and concentrated by ultrafiltration (molecular weight cut-off 10 kD) at 200–250 mg/ml of protein. The obtained enzymatic cocktail was used directly for DNA isolation from plant tissues. It contains, among others, cellulases, beta-glucanases, xylanases, mannanases, xyloglucanases, pectinases, glycosidases (such as beta-glucosidae, beta-xylosidase, alpha-L-arabinofuranosidase, alpha-galactosidase). Additional file 2 gives some enzymatic activities of the cocktail, as assayed according to Ghose . Ribosomal DNA from Trichoderma longibrachiatum was not detected by PCR in the enzymatic cocktail, and cellulase from this organism is in the GRAS list (Generally Recognized As Safe) of the US Food and Drug Administration http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CFRPart=184 under the number §184.1250.
The enzymatic cocktail remains stable at least for two years at 4°C. Substantial aliquots of the enzymatic preparation can be obtained from the first author.
One hundred and fifty six plant species from the Botanical Garden of Geneva were tested with the described enzymatic method of DNA isolation (Additional file 1). Leaf tissue was used in most cases and some seeds were also tested as indicated.
Leaf disks (5 mm in diameter) were incubated in 50 μl of digestion buffer (175 mM EDTA [pH 8.0], 100 mM sodium acetate [pH 4.6], 1% triton X100) and 5 μl of the enzymatic cocktail. After digestion (50°C with constant agitation from 3 to 16 hours, depending of species), 30 μl of liquid containing cell debris were drawn up and 200 μl of Dynabeads® DNA DIRECT™ Universal (Dynal ASA, Oslo, Norway) was added. The protocol of DNA isolation was then conducted according the manufacturer's instructions in 1.5 ml microtubes.
Alternatively, leaf disks of 48 randomly chosen species were digested simultaneously overnight in the same conditions on a sealed flat bottom microtitration plate (as shown on Fig. 2). Genomic DNA was further isolated using the Wizard® Magnetic 96 Plant System (Promega Corporation, Madison, WI, USA) and the MagnaBot® 96 Magnetic Separation Device, according to the manufacturer's instructions. For both protocols, DNA was eluted in 40 μl of TE8 (10 mM Tris-HCl, 1 mM EDTA, pH 8.0.). Fresh leaves were generally used, but silica gel-dried leaf tissue can also be digested. As well as leaf tissues, seed tissues were tested. To allow the enzyme solution to penetrate the seed tissue, seeds were broken into pieces of 1–3 mm in side, and one piece was used for DNA isolation. To examine the amount of DNA isolated, 10 μl of the eluted DNA was loaded on a 1% agarose gel containing ethidium bromide and the DNA band was compared with a known amount of lambda DNA /Hind III loaded into the gel.
Stability of the DNA during the enzymatic digestion of plant tissue
One μg of lambda DNA/Hind III was added to the digestion mixture alone or in the presence of a leaf disk of Ilex aquifolium and incubated overnight at 50°C. DNA was then isolated with the Wizard® Magnetic 96 Plant System (Promega) and one fifth of this DNA was loaded for agarose gel electrophoresis.
Comparison with a conventional method of DNA extraction
The amount of DNA isolated by a method of DNA extraction based on CTAB (hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide, ) was compared to the amount of DNA isolated by the enzymatic method described here for dry leaf tissue of Ilex aquifolium. Known amounts (from 14 to 53 mg) of liquid nitrogen-ground leaf tissue of Ilex were conventionally extracted and the isolated DNA was re-dissolved in the proportion of 50 μl of TE buffer per leaf disk (approximately 3 mg), the proportion used in the enzymatic method. The amounts of DNA were then compared by agarose gel electrophoresis.
Genomic DNA analysis
PCR amplifications of a plastid fragment (the atpB-rbcL spacer, ), a multi-copy nuclear sequence (ribosomal ITS/5.8S, ) and a single-copy nuclear sequence (nuclear encoded plastid glutamine synthetase, ) were tested on DNA isolated from a leaf disk of Ilex aquifolium, Aster amellus and Solanum tuberosum. One μl of isolated DNA were used in 25 μl of standard PCR reactions (annealing temperature of 55°C). RAPD amplifications were tested with primer 5' CGGCCCCTGT using 1 μl of the isolated DNA was added to 25 μl of standard PCR reaction (annealing temperature of 37°C).
We would like to thank R. Mayor who routinely uses this method for microsatellite analysis of Aster amellus, providing the picture for Fig. 4, and Catalys AG, Switzerland (Promega corporation) who provided, under advantageous conditions, their Wizard® Magnetic 96 Plant System. We also thank Michelle Price for many English adjustments. This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant SCOPES 7SUPJ062282).
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