In an effort to develop genetic markers for oyster identification, we studied length polymorphism in internal transcribed spacers (ITS) between major ribosomal RNA genes in 12 common species of Ostreidae: Crassostrea virginica, C. rhizophorae, C. gigas, C. angulata, C. sikamea, C. ariakensis, C. hongkongensis, Saccostrea echinata, S. glomerata, Ostrea angasi, O. edulis, and O. conchaphila. We designed two pairs of primers and optimized PCR conditions for simultaneous amplification of ITS1 and ITS2 in a single PCR. Amplification was successful in all 12 species, and PCR products were visualized on high-resolution agarose gels. ITS2 was longer than ITS1 in all Crassostrea and Saccostrea species, whereas they were about the same size in the three Ostrea species. No intraspecific variation in ITS length was detected. Among species, the length of ITS1 and ITS2 was polymorphic and provided unique identification of 8 species or species pairs: C. ariakensis, C. hongkongensis, C. sikamea, O. conchaphila, C. virginica/C. rhizophorae, C. gigas/C. angulata, S. echinata/S. glomerata, and O. angasi/O. edulis. The ITS assay provides simple, rapid and effective identification of C. ariakensis and several other oyster species. Because the primer sequences are conserved, the ITS assay may be useful in the identification of other bivalve species.
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