ISSN 1022-7954, Russian Journal of Genetics, 2017, Vol. 53, No. 1, pp. 59–66. © Pleiades Publishing, Inc., 2017.
Original Russian Text © O.V. Shelepova, M.V. Semenova, O.L. Enina, I.A. Schanzer, 2017, published in Genetika, 2017, Vol. 53, No. 1, pp. 54–62.
Genetic, Phenotypic, and Phytochemical Polymorphism
in Eastern European Populations of Mentha arvensis L.
O. V. Shelepova, M. V. Semenova, O. L. Enina, and I. A. Schanzer
Tsitsin Main Botanical Garden of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, 127276 Russia
Received February 25, 2016
Abstract⎯Variability of M. arvensis from five geographically distanced populations was examined using mor-
phological traits and phytochemical composition of essential oil and with the help of DNA fingerprinting
using ISSR markers. The population differentiation based on morphological traits was weak. Analysis of the
essential oil composition provided the subdivision of the sample into three groups and, on the basis of the
composition of ISSR amplicons, into four groups of specimens. A high degree of genetic polymorphism of
M. arvensis and substantial, though incomplete, population differentiation were identified. It was demon-
strated that the population of M. arvensis from the Komi Republic was the most genetically isolated, while the
populations from Moscow and Penza provinces were weakly differentiated from each other. The population
from the Republic of Belarus (near Grodno) was genetically and phytochemically considerably different from
the other studied populations, although morphologically indistinguishable from them. We argue that the dif-
ferentiation was caused not only by the isolation by distance but also owing to the formation of three different
ecotypes adapted to different climatic conditions.
Keywords: Mentha arvensis, polymorphism, ISSR, DNA, essential oil
Corn mint Mentha arvensis L. is one of the most
widely distributed species of the genus, which is found
in many regions of Europe and Asia and is widely used
as a medicinal and aromatic plant. In Russia, it is
widespread in the European part, Ciscaucasia, and
Siberia . Corn mint prefers moist places, growing in
meadows, on the banks of water bodies, rivers, and
lakes, at the edges of swamps, and in swampy shady
forests. Many of the morphological traits of M. arven-
sis are very volatile. The habit of the plant, its size, and
color of leaves and flowers vary depending on growing
conditions . Exceptional intraspecific polymor-
phism is reflected in the taxonomic division of this
species into a number of subspecies and varieties, the
number of which varies in different studies. For
instance, V.V. Makarov  recognized 11 varieties
within M. arvensis, while Tucker and Naczi  divided
it into two subspecies, M. arvensis subsp. arvensis (dis-
tributed in Southern and Western Europe) and M.
arvensis subsp. parietariefolia (Becker) Briq. (distrib-
uted in Northern and Eastern Europe), reducing to
synonyms a large number of species names recognized
previously within M. arvensis by other authors.
Several attempts to classify the genus Mentha on
the basis of the essential oil composition [5–7] have
been made. However, the variability in the composi-
tion and content of secondary metabolites could be
observed between different populations of the same
Molecular genetic methods of the analysis and
ISSR (Inter Simple Sequence Repeat) markers, in
particular, have been successfully used to assess
genetic polymorphism in plants. These methods have
been shown to be an efficient tool in studies of intra-
specific variation and hybridization in many plants
[11–13], including the species of the genus Mentha
The complex approach based on a combination of
molecular genetic, morphological, anatomical, and
phytochemical methods enables the most comprehen-
sive consideration of plant variability. Such an assess-
ment was used to study the phylogenetic relationships
among the species of the genus Mentha [17, 18] and
intraspecific variability in M. piperita and M. cervina L.
[10, 19, 20].
The objective of our study was to investigate intra-
specific variability within and between populations of
M. arvensis on the basis of the DNA fingerprinting
analysis, morphological traits, and phytochemical
composition of the essential oil.