Gene trapping is a powerful tool for gene discovery and functional genomics in both animals and plants. Upon insertion of the gene trap construct into an expressed gene, splice donor and acceptor sites facilitate the generation of transcriptional fusions between the flanking sequence and the reporter. Consequently, detection of reporter gene expression allows the identification of genes based on their expression pattern. Up to now rice is the only cereal crop for which gene trap approaches exist. In this study we describe a gene trap system in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) based on the maize transposable elements Ac/Ds.
We generated gene trap barley lines by crossing Ac transposase expressing plants with multiple independent transformants carrying the Ds based gene trap construct GTDsB. Upstream of the β-Glucuronidase start codon GTDsB carries splice donor and acceptor sites optimized for monocotyledonous plants. DNA blot analysis revealed GTDsB transposition frequencies of 11% and 26% in the F1 and F2 generation of gene trap lines and perpetuation of transposition activity in later generations. Furthermore, analysis of sequences flanking transposed GTDsB elements evidenced preferential insertion into expressed regions of the barley genome. We screened leaves, nodes, immature florets, pollinated florets, immature grains and seedlings of F2 plants and detected GUS expression in 51% (72/141) of the plants. Thus, reporter gene expression was found in 24 of the 28 F1 lines tested and in progeny of all GTDsB parental lines.
Due to the frequent transposition of GTDsB and the efficient expression of the GUS reporter gene, we conclude that this Ac/Ds-based gene trap system is an applicable approach for gene discovery in barley. The successful introduction of a gene trap construct optimized for monocots in barley contributes a novel functional genomics tool for this cereal crop.