Representatives of the genus Ancistrocladus, woody lianas of tropical Africa and Asia, contain pharmaceutically interesting alkaloids and have been the subjects of intensive phytochemical investigations. In Southeast Asia, Ancistrocladus tectorius, previously regarded as the only species of the genus from this region, is extremely polymorphic with respect to naphthylisoquinoline alkaloids, indicating that this taxon might be comprised of several morphologically similar species. We performed a comparative study of the ITS region of nuclear rDNA and of the trnK intron of cpDNA as well as an ISSR fingerprint analysis. Using 75 samples of A. tectorius from 21 locations in comparison to samples of other Ancistrocladus species from Asia and from West and Central Africa, we investigated patterns of species differentiation within this taxon. We found the high variability of chemical compounds described for A. tectorius to be paralleled by a high genetic variability of the units that have been assigned to this taxon. Samples assigned to A. tectorius were paraphyletic with respect to species from the Indian subcontinent, and intraspecific variability was comparable to interspecific variability among the African taxa. In addition, groups of individuals occurring in sympatry were found to be more similar to those from other locations, suggesting low levels of gene flow between those sympatric groups. This indicates either a considerable number of hybridization events during the evolution of A. tectorius or the existence of several distinguishable species not yet recognized. Our results are a first step in the development of species or population-specific markers for the prediction of the alkaloid spectrum of samples. This will help to improve the reproducibility of phytochemical research on Ancistrocladus.
- ISSR fingerprinting
- Naphthylisoquinoline alkaloids
- trnK intron