DNA profiling of shahtoosh

Linacre, A.M.T. and Lee, J.C. and Tsai, L. and Yang, C. and Hsieh, H. and Chiang, H. and Lai, S. and Huang, N. (2006) DNA profiling of shahtoosh. Electrophoresis, 27. pp. 3359-3362. ISSN 0173-0835

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Abstract

The population of the Tibetan Antelope (Pantholops hodgsonii) has recently declined dramatically due to the illegal trade in its wool. The animal lives at high altitude and is protected from the extremely cold climate due to a coat of very fine wool. These hairs are highly sought for weaving a shawl called shahtoosh. The large-scale poaching of the antelope has resulted in the species being placed on CITES Appendix I. We report on a method of DNA profiling on a confiscated shahtoosh using the cytochrome b (cyt b) gene to produce a test that will identify unambiguously the presence of P. hodgsonii. Two shahtoosh samples were provided by the Council of Agriculture, Taiwan, and ten shawl samples of sheep wool (Ovis aries), cashmere from the Kashmir goat (Capra hircus), and pashmina from the Himalayan goat (C. hircus) were collected from local stores for comparison. Two primer pairs were used to amplify a 271 bp fragment of cyt b gene which would distinguish these three species. The resulting amplification products were directly sequenced. When the DNA sequences were compared with the sequences registered in GenBank and EMBL databases, the sequences with the highest homology were the cyt b genes of P. hodgsonii, C. hircus, and O. aries. This study demonstrates that there is still sufficient DNA present in the finished wool of a shahtoosh shawl to allow DNA typing and the method established was highly plausible to identify the CITES protected species.