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1.  Discovery of chemically induced mutations in rice by TILLING 
BMC Plant Biology  2007;7:19.
Rice is both a food source for a majority of the world's population and an important model system. Available functional genomics resources include targeted insertion mutagenesis and transgenic tools. While these can be powerful, a non-transgenic, unbiased targeted mutagenesis method that can generate a range of allele types would add considerably to the analysis of the rice genome. TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions in Genomes), a general reverse genetic technique that combines traditional mutagenesis with high throughput methods for mutation discovery, is such a method.
To apply TILLING to rice, we developed two mutagenized rice populations. One population was developed by treatment with the chemical mutagen ethyl methanesulphonate (EMS), and the other with a combination of sodium azide plus methyl-nitrosourea (Az-MNU). To find induced mutations, target regions of 0.7–1.5 kilobases were PCR amplified using gene specific primers labeled with fluorescent dyes. Heteroduplexes were formed through denaturation and annealing of PCR products, mismatches digested with a crude preparation of CEL I nuclease and cleaved fragments visualized using denaturing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. In 10 target genes screened, we identified 27 nucleotide changes in the EMS-treated population and 30 in the Az-MNU population.
We estimate that the density of induced mutations is two- to threefold higher than previously reported rice populations (about 1/300 kb). By comparison to other plants used in public TILLING services, we conclude that the populations described here would be suitable for use in a large scale TILLING project.
PMCID: PMC1858691  PMID: 17428339
2.  TILLING - a shortcut in functional genomics 
Journal of Applied Genetics  2011;52(4):371-390.
Recent advances in large-scale genome sequencing projects have opened up new possibilities for the application of conventional mutation techniques in not only forward but also reverse genetics strategies. TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions IN Genomes) was developed a decade ago as an alternative to insertional mutagenesis. It takes advantage of classical mutagenesis, sequence availability and high-throughput screening for nucleotide polymorphisms in a targeted sequence. The main advantage of TILLING as a reverse genetics strategy is that it can be applied to any species, regardless of its genome size and ploidy level. The TILLING protocol provides a high frequency of point mutations distributed randomly in the genome. The great mutagenic potential of chemical agents to generate a high rate of nucleotide substitutions has been proven by the high density of mutations reported for TILLING populations in various plant species. For most of them, the analysis of several genes revealed 1 mutation/200–500 kb screened and much higher densities were observed for polyploid species, such as wheat. High-throughput TILLING permits the rapid and low-cost discovery of new alleles that are induced in plants. Several research centres have established a TILLING public service for various plant species. The recent trends in TILLING procedures rely on the diversification of bioinformatic tools, new methods of mutation detection, including mismatch-specific and sensitive endonucleases, but also various alternatives for LI-COR screening and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) discovery using next-generation sequencing technologies. The TILLING strategy has found numerous applications in functional genomics. Additionally, wide applications of this throughput method in basic and applied research have already been implemented through modifications of the original TILLING strategy, such as Ecotilling or Deletion TILLING.
PMCID: PMC3189332  PMID: 21912935
TILLING platform; Plant mutagenesis; Bioinformatic tools; Reverse genetics; Next-generation sequencing technologies
3.  Discovery of induced point mutations in maize genes by TILLING 
BMC Plant Biology  2004;4:12.
Going from a gene sequence to its function in the context of a whole organism requires a strategy for targeting mutations, referred to as reverse genetics. Reverse genetics is highly desirable in the modern genomics era; however, the most powerful methods are generally restricted to a few model organisms. Previously, we introduced a reverse-genetic strategy with the potential for general applicability to organisms that lack well-developed genetic tools. Our TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions IN Genomes) method uses chemical mutagenesis followed by screening for single-base changes to discover induced mutations that alter protein function. TILLING was shown to be an effective reverse genetic strategy by the establishment of a high-throughput TILLING facility and the delivery of thousands of point mutations in hundreds of Arabidopsis genes to members of the plant biology community.
We demonstrate that high-throughput TILLING is applicable to maize, an important crop plant with a large genome but with limited reverse-genetic resources currently available. We screened pools of DNA samples for mutations in 1-kb segments from 11 different genes, obtaining 17 independent induced mutations from a population of 750 pollen-mutagenized maize plants. One of the genes targeted was the DMT102 chromomethylase gene, for which we obtained an allelic series of three missense mutations that are predicted to be strongly deleterious.
Our findings indicate that TILLING is a broadly applicable and efficient reverse-genetic strategy. We are establishing a public TILLING service for maize modeled on the existing Arabidopsis TILLING Project.
PMCID: PMC512284  PMID: 15282033
4.  A high-density collection of EMS-induced mutations for TILLING in Landsberg erecta genetic background of Arabidopsis 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:147.
Arabidopsis thaliana is the main model species for plant molecular genetics studies and world-wide efforts are devoted to identify the function of all its genes. To this end, reverse genetics by TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions IN Genomes) in a permanent collection of chemically induced mutants is providing a unique resource in Columbia genetic background. In this work, we aim to extend TILLING resources available in A. thaliana by developing a new population of ethyl methanesulphonate (EMS) induced mutants in the second commonest reference strain. In addition, we pursue to saturate the number of EMS induced mutations that can be tolerated by viable and fertile plants.
By mutagenizing with different EMS concentrations we have developed a permanent collection of 3712 M2/M3 independent mutant lines in the reference strain Landsberg erecta (Ler) of A. thaliana. This population has been named as the Arabidopsis TILLer collection. The frequency of mutations per line was maximized by using M1 plants with low but sufficient seed fertility. Application of TILLING to search for mutants in 14 genes identified 21 to 46 mutations per gene, which correspond to a total of 450 mutations. Missense mutations were found for all genes while truncations were selected for all except one. We estimated that, on average, these lines carry one mutation every 89 kb, Ler population providing a total of more than five million induced mutations. It is estimated that TILLer collection shows a two to three fold higher EMS mutation density per individual than previously reported A. thaliana population.
Analysis of TILLer collection demonstrates its usefulness for large scale TILLING reverse genetics in another reference genetic background of A. thaliana. Comparisons with TILLING populations in other organisms indicate that this new A. thaliana collection carries the highest chemically induced mutation density per individual known in diploid species.
PMCID: PMC2803491  PMID: 20003424
5.  TILLING is an effective reverse genetics technique for Caenorhabditis elegans 
BMC Genomics  2006;7:262.
TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions in Genomes) is a reverse genetic technique based on the use of a mismatch-specific enzyme that identifies mutations in a target gene through heteroduplex analysis. We tested this technique in Caenorhabditis elegans, a model organism in which genomics tools have been well developed, but limitations in reverse genetics have restricted the number of heritable mutations that have been identified.
To determine whether TILLING represents an effective reverse genetic strategy for C. elegans we generated an EMS-mutagenised population of approximately 1500 individuals and screened for mutations in 10 genes. A total of 71 mutations were identified by TILLING, providing multiple mutant alleles for every gene tested. Some of the mutations identified are predicted to be silent, either because they are in non-coding DNA or because they affect the third bp of a codon which does not change the amino acid encoded by that codon. However, 59% of the mutations identified are missense alleles resulting in a change in one of the amino acids in the protein product of the gene, and 3% are putative null alleles which are predicted to eliminate gene function. We compared the types of mutation identified by TILLING with those previously reported from forward EMS screens and found that 96% of TILLING mutations were G/C-to-A/T transitions, a rate significantly higher than that found in forward genetic screens where transversions and deletions were also observed. The mutation rate we achieved was 1/293 kb, which is comparable to the mutation rate observed for TILLING in other organisms.
We conclude that TILLING is an effective and cost-efficient reverse genetics tool in C. elegans. It complements other reverse genetic techniques in this organism, can provide an allelic series of mutations for any locus and does not appear to have any bias in terms of gene size or location. For eight of the 10 target genes screened, TILLING has provided the first genetically heritable mutations which can be used to study their functions in vivo.
PMCID: PMC1626091  PMID: 17049087
6.  Statistical Mutation Calling from Sequenced Overlapping DNA Pools in TILLING Experiments 
BMC Bioinformatics  2011;12:287.
TILLING (Targeting induced local lesions IN genomes) is an efficient reverse genetics approach for detecting induced mutations in pools of individuals. Combined with the high-throughput of next-generation sequencing technologies, and the resolving power of overlapping pool design, TILLING provides an efficient and economical platform for functional genomics across thousands of organisms.
We propose a probabilistic method for calling TILLING-induced mutations, and their carriers, from high throughput sequencing data of overlapping population pools, where each individual occurs in two pools. We assign a probability score to each sequence position by applying Bayes' Theorem to a simplified binomial model of sequencing error and expected mutations, taking into account the coverage level. We test the performance of our method on variable quality, high-throughput sequences from wheat and rice mutagenized populations.
We show that our method effectively discovers mutations in large populations with sensitivity of 92.5% and specificity of 99.8%. It also outperforms existing SNP detection methods in detecting real mutations, especially at higher levels of coverage variability across sequenced pools, and in lower quality short reads sequence data. The implementation of our method is available from:
PMCID: PMC3150297  PMID: 21756356
7.  Towards a TILLING platform for functional genomics in Piel de Sapo melons 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:289.
The availability of genetic and genomic resources for melon has increased significantly, but functional genomics resources are still limited for this crop. TILLING is a powerful reverse genetics approach that can be utilized to generate novel mutations in candidate genes. A TILLING resource is available for cantalupensis melons, but not for inodorus melons, the other main commercial group.
A new ethyl methanesulfonate-mutagenized (EMS) melon population was generated for the first time in an andromonoecious non-climacteric inodorus Piel de Sapo genetic background. Diverse mutant phenotypes in seedlings, vines and fruits were observed, some of which were of possible commercial interest. The population was first screened for mutations in three target genes involved in disease resistance and fruit quality (Cm-PDS, Cm-eIF4E and Cm-eIFI(iso)4E). The same genes were also tilled in the available monoecious and climacteric cantalupensis EMS melon population. The overall mutation density in this first Piel de Sapo TILLING platform was estimated to be 1 mutation/1.5 Mb by screening four additional genes (Cm-ACO1, Cm-NOR, Cm-DET1 and Cm-DHS). Thirty-three point mutations were found for the seven gene targets, six of which were predicted to have an impact on the function of the protein. The genotype/phenotype correlation was demonstrated for a loss-of-function mutation in the Phytoene desaturase gene, which is involved in carotenoid biosynthesis.
The TILLING approach was successful at providing new mutations in the genetic background of Piel de Sapo in most of the analyzed genes, even in genes for which natural variation is extremely low. This new resource will facilitate reverse genetics studies in non-climacteric melons, contributing materially to future genomic and breeding studies.
PMCID: PMC3163545  PMID: 21834982
Cucumis melo; inodorus; TILLING; mutant; disease resistance; fruit quality
8.  A modified TILLING approach to detect induced mutations in tetraploid and hexaploid wheat 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:115.
Wheat (Triticum ssp.) is an important food source for humans in many regions around the world. However, the ability to understand and modify gene function for crop improvement is hindered by the lack of available genomic resources. TILLING is a powerful reverse genetics approach that combines chemical mutagenesis with a high-throughput screen for mutations. Wheat is specially well-suited for TILLING due to the high mutation densities tolerated by polyploids, which allow for very efficient screens. Despite this, few TILLING populations are currently available. In addition, current TILLING screening protocols require high-throughput genotyping platforms, limiting their use.
We developed mutant populations of pasta and common wheat and organized them for TILLING. To simplify and decrease costs, we developed a non-denaturing polyacrylamide gel set-up that uses ethidium bromide to detect fragments generated by crude celery juice extract digestion of heteroduplexes. This detection method had similar sensitivity as traditional LI-COR screens, suggesting that it represents a valid alternative. We developed genome-specific primers to circumvent the presence of multiple homoeologous copies of our target genes. Each mutant library was characterized by TILLING multiple genes, revealing high mutation densities in both the hexaploid (~1/38 kb) and tetraploid (~1/51 kb) populations for 50% GC targets. These mutation frequencies predict that screening 1,536 lines for an effective target region of 1.3 kb with 50% GC content will result in ~52 hexaploid and ~39 tetraploid mutant alleles. This implies a high probability of obtaining knock-out alleles (P = 0.91 for hexaploid, P = 0.84 for tetraploid), in addition to multiple missense mutations. In total, we identified over 275 novel alleles in eleven targeted gene/genome combinations in hexaploid and tetraploid wheat and have validated the presence of a subset of them in our seed stock.
We have generated reverse genetics TILLING resources for pasta and bread wheat and achieved a high mutation density in both populations. We also developed a modified screening method that will lower barriers to adopt this promising technology. We hope that the use of this reverse genetics resource will enable more researchers to pursue wheat functional genomics and provide novel allelic diversity for wheat improvement.
PMCID: PMC2748083  PMID: 19712486
9.  A new mutant genetic resource for tomato crop improvement by TILLING technology 
BMC Research Notes  2010;3:69.
In the last decade, the availability of gene sequences of many plant species, including tomato, has encouraged the development of strategies that do not rely on genetic transformation techniques (GMOs) for imparting desired traits in crops. One of these new emerging technology is TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions In Genomes), a reverse genetics tool, which is proving to be very valuable in creating new traits in different crop species.
To apply TILLING to tomato, a new mutant collection was generated in the genetic background of the processing tomato cultivar Red Setter by treating seeds with two different ethylemethane sulfonate doses (0.7% and 1%). An associated phenotype database, LycoTILL, was developed and a TILLING platform was also established. The interactive and evolving database is available online to the community for phenotypic alteration inquiries. To validate the Red Setter TILLING platform, induced point mutations were searched in 7 tomato genes with the mismatch-specific ENDO1 nuclease. In total 9.5 kb of tomato genome were screened and 66 nucleotide substitutions were identified. The overall mutation density was estimated and it resulted to be 1/322 kb and 1/574 kb for the 1% EMS and 0.7% EMS treatment respectively.
The mutation density estimated in our collection and its comparison with other TILLING populations demonstrate that the Red Setter genetic resource is suitable for use in high-throughput mutation discovery. The Red Setter TILLING platform is open to the research community and is publicly available via web for requesting mutation screening services.
PMCID: PMC2845601  PMID: 20222995
10.  A diploid wheat TILLING resource for wheat functional genomics 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:205.
Triticum monococcum L., an A genome diploid einkorn wheat, was the first domesticated crop. As a diploid, it is attractive genetic model for the study of gene structure and function of wheat-specific traits. Diploid wheat is currently not amenable to reverse genetics approaches such as insertion mutagenesis and post-transcriptional gene silencing strategies. However, TILLING offers a powerful functional genetics approach for wheat gene analysis.
We developed a TILLING population of 1,532 M2 families using EMS as a mutagen. A total of 67 mutants were obtained for the four genes studied. Waxy gene mutation frequencies are known to be 1/17.6 - 34.4 kb DNA in polyploid wheat TILLING populations. The T. monococcum diploid wheat TILLING population had a mutation frequency of 1/90 kb for the same gene. Lignin biosynthesis pathway genes- COMT1, HCT2, and 4CL1 had mutation frequencies of 1/86 kb, 1/92 kb and 1/100 kb, respectively. The overall mutation frequency of the diploid wheat TILLING population was 1/92 kb.
The mutation frequency of a diploid wheat TILLING population was found to be higher than that reported for other diploid grasses. The rate, however, is lower than tetraploid and hexaploid wheat TILLING populations because of the higher tolerance of polyploids to mutations. Unlike polyploid wheat, most mutants in diploid wheat have a phenotype amenable to forward and reverse genetic analysis and establish diploid wheat as an attractive model to study gene function in wheat. We estimate that a TILLING population of 5, 520 will be needed to get a non-sense mutation for every wheat gene of interest with 95% probability.
PMCID: PMC3541219  PMID: 23134614
TILLING; Reverse genetics; Triticum monococcum; Mutation frequency; Waxy; Lignin
11.  TILLING in the two-rowed barley cultivar 'Barke' reveals preferred sites of functional diversity in the gene HvHox1 
BMC Research Notes  2009;2:258.
The economic importance of cereals such as barley, and the demand for improved yield and quality require a better understanding of the genetic components that modulate biologically and commercially relevant traits. While Arabidopsis thaliana is the premiere model plant system, the spectrum of its traits cannot address all of the fundamental questions of crop plant development. Unlike Arabidopsis, barley is both a crop and a model system for scientific research, and it is increasingly being used for genetic and molecular investigations into the conserved biological processes of cereals. A common challenge in genetic studies in plants with large genomes arises from the very time-consuming work of associating mutant phenotypes with gene sequence information, especially if insertion mutagenesis is not routine, as in barley. Reverse genetics based on chemical mutagenesis represents the best solution to this obstacle.
In barley, we generated a new TILLING (Targeting Local Lesions IN Genomes) resource comprising 10,279 M2 mutants in the two-rowed malting cultivar 'Barke,' which has been used in the generation of other genomic resources in barley (~150,000 ESTs, DH mapping population). The value of this new resource was tested using selected candidate genes. An average frequency of approximately one mutation per 0.5 Mb was determined by screening ten fragments of six different genes. The ethyl methanesulphonate (EMS)mutagenesis efficiency was studied by recording and relating the mutagenesis-dependent effects found in the three mutant generations (M1-M3). A detailed analysis was performed for the homeodomain-leucine-zipper (HD-ZIP) gene HvHox1. Thirty-one mutations were identified by screening a 1,270-bp fragment in 7,348 M2 lines. Three of the newly identified mutants exhibited either a six-rowed or an intermedium-spike phenotype, and one mutant displayed a significantly altered spikelet morphology compared to that of the 'Barke' wild type. Our results indicate a bias in the frequency of independent functional mutations at specific base pair (bp) positions within the gene HvHox1.
A new TILLING population was developed as a resource for high-throughput gene discovery in an alternative barley germplasm. Pilot screening demonstrated a similar or even slightly higher mutation frequency when compared to previously published barley TILLING populations that should allow for the identification of diverse allelic variation. Partial phenotypic evaluation of the M2 and M3 generations has revealed the presence of a wide spectrum of morphological diversity that highlights the great potential of this resource for use in forward genetic screens. Altogether, our study shows the efficiency of screening and the applicability of the new TILLING population for genetic studies in the barley crop model system.
PMCID: PMC2803498  PMID: 20017921
12.  EMS mutagenesis in mature seed-derived rice calli as a new method for rapidly obtaining TILLING mutant populations 
Plant Methods  2014;10:5.
TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions IN Genomes) is a reverse genetic method that combines chemical mutagenesis with high-throughput genome-wide screening for point mutation detection in genes of interest. However, this mutation discovery approach faces a particular problem which is how to obtain a mutant population with a sufficiently high mutation density. Furthermore, plant mutagenesis protocols require two successive generations (M1, M2) for mutation fixation to occur before the analysis of the genotype can begin.
Here, we describe a new TILLING approach for rice based on ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS) mutagenesis of mature seed-derived calli and direct screening of in vitro regenerated plants. A high mutagenesis rate was obtained (i.e. one mutation in every 451 Kb) when plants were screened for two senescence-related genes. Screening was carried out in 2400 individuals from a mutant population of 6912. Seven sense change mutations out of 15 point mutations were identified.
This new strategy represents a significant advantage in terms of time-savings (i.e. more than eight months), greenhouse space and work during the generation of mutant plant populations. Furthermore, this effective chemical mutagenesis protocol ensures high mutagenesis rates thereby saving in waste removal costs and the total amount of mutagen needed thanks to the mutagenesis volume reduction.
PMCID: PMC3923009  PMID: 24475756
Oryza sativa; Scutellum; Mature seed; Calli; Mutagenesis; EMS; TILLING; Reverse genetics
13.  High Resolution Melt (HRM) analysis is an efficient tool to genotype EMS mutants in complex crop genomes 
Plant Methods  2011;7:43.
Targeted Induced Loci Lesions IN Genomes (TILLING) is increasingly being used to generate and identify mutations in target genes of crop genomes. TILLING populations of several thousand lines have been generated in a number of crop species including Brassica rapa. Genetic analysis of mutants identified by TILLING requires an efficient, high-throughput and cost effective genotyping method to track the mutations through numerous generations. High resolution melt (HRM) analysis has been used in a number of systems to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and insertion/deletions (IN/DELs) enabling the genotyping of different types of samples. HRM is ideally suited to high-throughput genotyping of multiple TILLING mutants in complex crop genomes. To date it has been used to identify mutants and genotype single mutations. The aim of this study was to determine if HRM can facilitate downstream analysis of multiple mutant lines identified by TILLING in order to characterise allelic series of EMS induced mutations in target genes across a number of generations in complex crop genomes.
We demonstrate that HRM can be used to genotype allelic series of mutations in two genes, BraA.CAX1a and BraA.MET1.a in Brassica rapa. We analysed 12 mutations in BraA.CAX1.a and five in BraA.MET1.a over two generations including a back-cross to the wild-type. Using a commercially available HRM kit and the Lightscanner™ system we were able to detect mutations in heterozygous and homozygous states for both genes.
Using HRM genotyping on TILLING derived mutants, it is possible to generate an allelic series of mutations within multiple target genes rapidly. Lines suitable for phenotypic analysis can be isolated approximately 8-9 months (3 generations) from receiving M3 seed of Brassica rapa from the RevGenUK TILLING service.
PMCID: PMC3251530  PMID: 22152063
TILLING; HRM; Brassica; genotyping
14.  High-Throughput Discovery of Chloroplast and Mitochondrial DNA Polymorphisms in Brassicaceae Species by ORG-EcoTILLING 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e47284.
Information on polymorphic DNA in organelle genomes is essential for evolutionary and ecological studies. However, it is challenging to perform high-throughput investigations of chloroplast and mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms. In recent years, EcoTILLING stands out as one of the most universal, low-cost, and high-throughput reverse genetic methods, and the identification of natural genetic variants can provide much information about gene function, association mapping and linkage disequilibrium analysis and species evolution. Until now, no report exists on whether this method is applicable to organelle genomes and to what extent it can be used.
Methodology/Principal Findings
To address this problem, we adapted the CEL I-based heteroduplex cleavage strategy used in Targeting Induced Local Lesions in Genomes (TILLING) for the discovery of nucleotide polymorphisms in organelle genomes. To assess the applicability and accuracy of this technology, designated ORG-EcoTILLING, at different taxonomic levels, we sampled two sets of taxa representing accessions from the Brassicaceae with three chloroplast genes (accD, matK and rbcL) and one mitochondrial gene (atp6). The method successfully detected nine, six and one mutation sites in the accD, matK and rbcL genes, respectively, in 96 Brassica accessions. These mutations were confirmed by DNA sequencing, with 100% accuracy at both inter- and intraspecific levels. We also detected 44 putative mutations in accD in 91 accessions from 45 species and 29 genera of seven tribes. Compared with DNA sequencing results, the false negative rate was 36%. However, 17 SNPs detected in atp6 were completely identical to the sequencing results.
These results suggest that ORG-EcoTILLING is a powerful and cost-effective alternative method for high-throughput genome-wide assessment of inter- and intraspecific chloroplast and mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms. It will play an important role in evolutionary and ecological biology studies, in identification of related genes associated with agronomic importance such as high yield and improved cytoplasmic quality, and for identifying mitochondrial point mutations responsible for diseases in humans and other animals.
PMCID: PMC3504036  PMID: 23185237
15.  NEATTILL: A simplified procedure for nucleic acid extraction from arrayed tissue for TILLING and other high-throughput reverse genetic applications 
Plant Methods  2010;6:3.
TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions in Genomes) is a reverse genetics procedure for identifying point mutations in selected gene(s) amplified from a mutagenized population using high-throughput detection platforms such as slab gel electrophoresis, capillary electrophoresis or dHPLC. One essential pre-requisite for TILLING is genomic DNA isolation from a large population for PCR amplification of selected target genes. It also requires multiplexing of genomic DNA isolated from different individuals (pooling) in typically 8-fold pools, for mutation scanning, and to minimize the number of PCR amplifications, which is a strenuous and long-drawn-out work. We describe here a simplified procedure of multiplexing, NEATTILL (Nucleic acid Extraction from Arrayed Tissue for TILLING), which is rapid and equally efficient in assisting mutation detection.
The NEATTILL procedure was evaluated for the tomato TILLING platform and was found to be simpler and more efficient than previously available methods. The procedure consisted of pooling tissue samples, instead of nucleic acid, from individual plants in 96-well plates, followed by DNA isolation from the arrayed samples by a novel protocol. The three variants of the NEATTILL procedure (vast, in-depth and intermediate) can be applied across various genomes depending upon the population size of the TILLING platform. The 2-D pooling ensures the precise confirmation of the coordinates of the positive mutant line while scanning complementary plates. Choice of tissue for arraying and nucleic acid isolation is discussed in detail with reference to tomato.
NEATTILL is a convenient procedure that can be applied to all organisms, the genomes of which have been mutagenized and are being scanned for multiple alleles of various genes by TILLING for understanding gene-to-phenotype relationships. It is a time-saving, less labour intensive and reasonably cost-effective method. Tissue arraying can cut costs by up to 90% and minimizes the risk of exposing the DNA to nucleases. Before arraying, different tissues should be evaluated for DNA quality, as the case study in tomato showed that cotyledons rather than leaves are better suited for DNA isolation. The protocol described here for nucleic acid isolation can be generally adapted for large-scale projects such as insertional mutagenesis, transgenic confirmation, mapping and fingerprinting which require isolation of DNA from large populations.
PMCID: PMC2828980  PMID: 20181012
16.  High-resolution melting curve analysis for rapid detection of mutations in a Medaka TILLING library 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:70.
During the last two decades, DNA sequencing has led to the identification of numerous genes in key species; however, in most cases, their functions are still unknown. In this situation, reverse genetics is the most suitable method to assign function to a gene. TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions IN Genomes) is a reverse-genetic strategy that combines random chemical mutagenesis with high-throughput discovery of the induced mutations in target genes. The method has been applied to a variety of plant and animal species. Screening of the induced mutations is the most important step in TILLING. Currently, direct sequencing or nuclease-mediated screening of heteroduplexes is widely used for detection of mutations in TILLING. Both methods are useful, but the costs are substantial and turnaround times are relatively long. Thus, there is a need for an alternative method that is of higher throughput and more cost effective.
In this study, we developed a high resolution melting (HRM) assay and evaluated its effectiveness for screening ENU-induced mutations in a medaka TILLING library. We had previously screened mutations in the p53 gene by direct sequencing. Therefore, we first tested the efficiency of the HRM assay by screening mutations in p53, which indicated that the HRM assay is as useful as direct sequencing. Next, we screened mutations in the atr and atm genes with the HRM assay. Nonsense mutations were identified in each gene, and the phenotypes of these nonsense mutants confirmed their loss-of-function nature.
These results demonstrate that the HRM assay is useful for screening mutations in TILLING. Furthermore, the phenotype of the obtained mutants indicates that medaka is an excellent animal model for investigating genome stability and gene function, especially when combined with TILLING.
PMCID: PMC2949603  PMID: 20840787
17.  High-Throughput Detection of Induced Mutations and Natural Variation Using KeyPoint™ Technology 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(3):e4761.
Reverse genetics approaches rely on the detection of sequence alterations in target genes to identify allelic variants among mutant or natural populations. Current (pre-) screening methods such as TILLING and EcoTILLING are based on the detection of single base mismatches in heteroduplexes using endonucleases such as CEL 1. However, there are drawbacks in the use of endonucleases due to their relatively poor cleavage efficiency and exonuclease activity. Moreover, pre-screening methods do not reveal information about the nature of sequence changes and their possible impact on gene function. We present KeyPoint™ technology, a high-throughput mutation/polymorphism discovery technique based on massive parallel sequencing of target genes amplified from mutant or natural populations. KeyPoint combines multi-dimensional pooling of large numbers of individual DNA samples and the use of sample identification tags (“sample barcoding”) with next-generation sequencing technology. We show the power of KeyPoint by identifying two mutants in the tomato eIF4E gene based on screening more than 3000 M2 families in a single GS FLX sequencing run, and discovery of six haplotypes of tomato eIF4E gene by re-sequencing three amplicons in a subset of 92 tomato lines from the EU-SOL core collection. We propose KeyPoint technology as a broadly applicable amplicon sequencing approach to screen mutant populations or germplasm collections for identification of (novel) allelic variation in a high-throughput fashion.
PMCID: PMC2654077  PMID: 19283079
18.  EcoTILLING in Capsicum species: searching for new virus resistances 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:631.
The EcoTILLING technique allows polymorphisms in target genes of natural populations to be quickly analysed or identified and facilitates the screening of genebank collections for desired traits. We have developed an EcoTILLING platform to exploit Capsicum genetic resources. A perfect example of the utility of this EcoTILLING platform is its application in searching for new virus-resistant alleles in Capsicum genus. Mutations in translation initiation factors (eIF4E, eIF(iso)4E, eIF4G and eIF(iso)4G) break the cycle of several RNA viruses without affecting the plant life cycle, which makes these genes potential targets to screen for resistant germplasm.
We developed and assayed a cDNA-based EcoTILLING platform with 233 cultivated accessions of the genus Capsicum. High variability in the coding sequences of the eIF4E and eIF(iso)4E genes was detected using the cDNA platform. After sequencing, 36 nucleotide changes were detected in the CDS of eIF4E and 26 in eIF(iso)4E. A total of 21 eIF4E haplotypes and 15 eIF(iso)4E haplotypes were identified. To evaluate the functional relevance of this variability, 31 possible eIF4E/eIF(iso)4E combinations were tested against Potato virus Y. The results showed that five new eIF4E variants (pvr210, pvr211, pvr212, pvr213 and pvr214) were related to PVY-resistance responses.
EcoTILLING was optimised in different Capsicum species to detect allelic variants of target genes. This work is the first to use cDNA instead of genomic DNA in EcoTILLING. This approach avoids intronic sequence problems and reduces the number of reactions. A high level of polymorphism has been identified for initiation factors, showing the high genetic variability present in our collection and its potential use for other traits, such as genes related to biotic or abiotic stresses, quality or production. Moreover, the new eIF4E and eIF(iso)4E alleles are an excellent collection for searching for new resistance against other RNA viruses.
PMCID: PMC3091766  PMID: 21073716
19.  A Mutant Brassica napus (Canola) Population for the Identification of New Genetic Diversity via TILLING and Next Generation Sequencing 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84303.
We have generated a Brassica napus (canola) population of 3,158 EMS-mutagenised lines and used TILLING to demonstrate that the population has a high enough mutation density that it will be useful for identification of mutations in genes of interest in this important crop species. TILLING is a reverse genetics technique that has been successfully used in many plant and animal species. Classical TILLING involves the generation of a mutagenised population, followed by screening of DNA samples using a mismatch-specific endonuclease that cleaves only those PCR products that carry a mutation. Polyacrylamide gel detection is then used to visualise the mutations in any gene of interest. We have used this TILLING technique to identify 432 unique mutations in 26 different genes in B. napus (canola cv. DH12075). This reflects a mutation density ranging from 1/56 kb to 1/308 kb (depending on the locus) with an average of 1/109 kb. We have also successfully verified the utility of next generation sequencing technology as a powerful approach for the identification of rare mutations in a population of plants, even in polyploid species such as B. napus. Most of the mutants we have identified are publically available.
PMCID: PMC3869819  PMID: 24376800
20.  Fluorescent dye labeled DNA size standards for molecular mass detection in visible/infrared range 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:12.
Targeting Induced Local Lesions in Genomes (TILLING) is a high throughput reverse genetics tool which detects mismatches (single point mutations or small indels) in large number of individuals of mutagenized populations. Currently, TILLING is intensively used for genomics assisted molecular breeding of several crop plants for desired traits. Most commonly used platform for mutation detection is Li-COR DNA Analyzer, where PCR amplified products treated with single strand mismatch specific nuclease are resolved on denaturing gels. The molecular size of any cut product can be easily estimated by comparing with IR dye labeled markers of known sizes. Similar fluorescent dye labeled size markers are also used for several genotyping experiments. Currently, commercially available size standards are expensive and are restricted up to only 700 bp which renders estimation of products of sizes greater than 700 bases inaccurate.
A simple protocol was developed for labeling 5' end of multiple DNA size markers with fluorescent dyes. This method involves cloning a pool of different size markers of DNA in a plasmid vector. PCR amplification of plasmid using IR dye labeled universal primers generates 5' fluorescent labeled products of various sizes. The size of products constituting the ladder can be customized as per the need. The generated size markers can be used without any further purification and were found to be stable up to one year at -20°C.
A simple method was developed for generating fluorescent dye labeled size standards. This method can be customized to generate different size standards as per experimental needs. The protocol described can also be adapted for developing labeled size standards for detection on platforms other than Li-COR i.e. other than infra red range of the spectrum.
PMCID: PMC3035197  PMID: 21255394
21.  New approach for fish breeding by chemical mutagenesis: establishment of TILLING method in fugu (Takifugu rubripes) with ENU mutagenesis 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:786.
In fish breeding, it is essential to discover and generate fish exhibiting an effective phenotype for the aquaculture industry, but screening for natural mutants by only depending on natural spontaneous mutations is limited. Presently, reverse genetics has become an important tool to generate mutants, which exhibit the phenotype caused by inactivation of a gene. TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions INGenomes) is a reverse genetics strategy that combines random chemical mutagenesis with high-throughput discovery technologies for screening the induced mutations in target genes. Although the chemical mutagenesis has been used widely in a variety of model species and also genetic breeding of microorganisms and crops, the application of the mutagenesis in fish breeding has been only rarely reported.
In this study, we developed the TILLING method in fugu with ENU mutagenesis and high-resolution melting (HRM) analysis to detect base pair changes in target sequences. Fugu males were treated 3 times at weekly intervals with various ENU concentrations, and then the collected sperm after the treatment was used to fertilize normal female for generating the mutagenized population (F1). The fertilization and the hatching ratios were similar to those of the control and did not reveal a dose dependency of ENU. Genomic DNA from the harvested F1 offspring was used for the HRM analysis. To obtain a fish exhibiting a useful phenotype (e.g. high meat production and rapid growth), fugu myostatin (Mstn) gene was examined as a target gene, because it has been clarified that the mstn deficient medaka exhibited double-muscle phenotype in common with MSTN knockout mice and bovine MSTN mutant. As a result, ten types of ENU-induced mutations were identified including a nonsense mutation in the investigated region with HRM analysis. In addition, the average mutation frequency in fugu Mstn gene was 1 mutant per 297 kb, which is similar to values calculated for zebrafish and medaka TILLING libraries.
These results demonstrate that the TILLING method in fugu was established. We anticipate that this TILLING approach can be used to generate a wide range of mutant alleles, and be applicable to many farmed fish that can be chemically mutagenized.
PMCID: PMC3830513  PMID: 24225309
TILLING; Fugu; ENU; HRM; Myostatin; Mutagenesis; Fish breeding
22.  ZFIN: enhancements and updates to the zebrafish model organism database 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;39(Database issue):D822-D829.
ZFIN, the Zebrafish Model Organism Database,, serves as the central repository and web-based resource for zebrafish genetic, genomic, phenotypic and developmental data. ZFIN manually curates comprehensive data for zebrafish genes, phenotypes, genotypes, gene expression, antibodies, anatomical structures and publications. A wide-ranging collection of web-based search forms and tools facilitates access to integrated views of these data promoting analysis and scientific discovery. Data represented in ZFIN are derived from three primary sources: curation of zebrafish publications, individual research laboratories and collaborations with bioinformatics organizations. Data formats include text, images and graphical representations. ZFIN is a dynamic resource with data added daily as part of our ongoing curation process. Software updates are frequent. Here, we describe recent additions to ZFIN including (i) enhanced access to images, (ii) genomic features, (iii) genome browser, (iv) transcripts, (v) antibodies and (vi) a community wiki for protocols and antibodies.
PMCID: PMC3013679  PMID: 21036866
23.  Using transgenic reporters to visualize bone and cartilage signaling during development in vivo 
Green fluorescent protein was first used as a marker of protein expression in vivo 18 years ago, heralding the beginning of what became known as the Green Revolution. Since then, there has been an explosion in the number of transgenic lines in existence, and these transgenic tools are now being applied to skeletal research. Advances in transgenesis are also leading to increasing use of new model organisms for studying skeletogenesis. Such new models include the small teleosts zebrafish and medaka, which due to their optical translucency offer imaging possibilities in the live animals. In this review, we will introduce a number of recent advances in genetic engineering and transgenesis and the new genetic tools that are currently being developed. We will provide examples of how zebrafish and medaka transgenic lines are helping us to understand the behavior of skeletal cells in vivo. Finally, we will discuss future prospects for the application of transgenic technology to skeletal research.
PMCID: PMC3399225  PMID: 22826703
bone; cartilage; reporter; technology; transgenic; zebrafish; bone; cartilage; transgenic; reporter; zebrafish
24.  TILLING to detect induced mutations in soybean 
BMC Plant Biology  2008;8:9.
Soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.) is an important nitrogen-fixing crop that provides much of the world's protein and oil. However, the available tools for investigation of soybean gene function are limited. Nevertheless, chemical mutagenesis can be applied to soybean followed by screening for mutations in a target of interest using a strategy known as Targeting Induced Local Lesions IN Genomes (TILLING). We have applied TILLING to four mutagenized soybean populations, three of which were treated with ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS) and one with N-nitroso-N-methylurea (NMU).
We screened seven targets in each population and discovered a total of 116 induced mutations. The NMU-treated population and one EMS mutagenized population had similar mutation density (~1/140 kb), while another EMS population had a mutation density of ~1/250 kb. The remaining population had a mutation density of ~1/550 kb. Because of soybean's polyploid history, PCR amplification of multiple targets could impede mutation discovery. Indeed, one set of primers tested in this study amplified more than a single target and produced low quality data. To address this problem, we removed an extraneous target by pretreating genomic DNA with a restriction enzyme. Digestion of the template eliminated amplification of the extraneous target and allowed the identification of four additional mutant alleles compared to untreated template.
The development of four independent populations with considerable mutation density, together with an additional method for screening closely related targets, indicates that soybean is a suitable organism for high-throughput mutation discovery even with its extensively duplicated genome.
PMCID: PMC2266751  PMID: 18218134
25.  Implementation of two high through-put techniques in a novel application: detecting point mutations in large EMS mutated plant populations 
Plant Methods  2009;5:13.
The establishment of mutant populations together with the strategies for targeted mutation detection has been applied successfully to a large number of organisms including many species in the plant kingdom. Considerable efforts have been invested into research on tomato as a model for berry-fruit plants. With the progress of the tomato sequencing project, reverse genetics becomes an obvious and achievable goal.
Here we describe the treatment of Solanum lycopersicum seeds with 1% EMS and the development of a new mutated tomato population. To increase targeted mutant detection throughput an automated seed DNA extraction has been combined with novel mutation detection platforms for TILLING in plants. We have adapted two techniques used in human genetic diagnostics: Conformation Sensitive Capillary Electrophoresis (CSCE) and High Resolution DNA Melting Analysis (HRM) to mutation screening in DNA pools. Classical TILLING involves critical and time consuming steps such as endonuclease digestion reactions and gel electrophoresis runs. Using CSCE or HRM, the only step required is a simple PCR before either capillary electrophoresis or DNA melting curve analysis. Here we describe the development of a mutant tomato population, the setting up of two polymorphism detection platforms for plants and the results of the first screens as mutation density in the populations and estimation of the false-positives rate when using HRM to screen DNA pools.
These results demonstrate that CSCE and HRM are fast, affordable and sensitive techniques for mutation detection in DNA pools and therefore allow the rapid identification of new allelic variants in a mutant population. Results from the first screens indicate that the mutagen treatment has been effective with an average mutation detection rate per diploid genome of 1.36 mutation/kb/1000 lines.
PMCID: PMC2763861  PMID: 19811648

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