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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  A rich TILLING resource for studying gene function in Brassica rapa 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:62.
The Brassicaceae family includes the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana as well as a number of agronomically important species such as oilseed crops (in particular Brassica napus, B. juncea and B. rapa) and vegetables (eg. B. rapa and B. oleracea).
Separated by only 10-20 million years, Brassica species and Arabidopsis thaliana are closely related, and it is expected that knowledge obtained relating to Arabidopsis growth and development can be translated into Brassicas for crop improvement. Moreover, certain aspects of plant development are sufficiently different between Brassica and Arabidopsis to warrant studies to be carried out directly in the crop species. However, mutating individual genes in the amphidiploid Brassicas such as B. napus and B. juncea may, on the other hand, not give rise to expected phenotypes as the genomes of these species can contain up to six orthologues per single-copy Arabidopsis gene. In order to elucidate and possibly exploit the function of redundant genes for oilseed rape crop improvement, it may therefore be more efficient to study the effects in one of the diploid Brassica species such as B. rapa. Moreover, the ongoing sequencing of the B. rapa genome makes this species a highly attractive model for Brassica research and genetic resource development.
Seeds from the diploid Brassica A genome species, B. rapa were treated with ethyl methane sulfonate (EMS) to produce a TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions In Genomes) population for reverse genetics studies. We used the B. rapa genotype, R-o-18, which has a similar developmental ontogeny to an oilseed rape crop. Hence this resource is expected to be well suited for studying traits with relevance to yield and quality of oilseed rape. DNA was isolated from a total of 9,216 M2 plants and pooled to form the basis of the TILLING platform. Analysis of six genes revealed a high level of mutations with a density of about one per 60 kb. This analysis also demonstrated that screening a 1 kb amplicon in just one third of the population (3072 M2 plants) will provide an average of 68 mutations and a 97% probability of obtaining a stop-codon mutation resulting in a truncated protein. We furthermore calculated that each plant contains on average ~10,000 mutations and due to the large number of plants, it is predicted that mutations in approximately half of the GC base pairs in the genome exist within this population.
We have developed the first EMS TILLING resource in the diploid Brassica species, B. rapa. The mutation density in this population is ~1 per 60 kb, which makes it the most densely mutated diploid organism for which a TILLING population has been published. This resource is publicly available through the RevGenUK reverse genetics platform
PMCID: PMC2923536  PMID: 20380715
7.  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
8.  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
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.  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
11.  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
12.  “Casting” light on the role of glycosylation during embryonic development: Insights from zebrafish 
Glycoconjugate journal  2012;30(1):33-40.
Zebrafish (Danio rerio) remains a versatile model organism for the investigation of early development and organogenesis, and has emerged as a valuable platform for drug discovery and toxicity evaluation [1–6]. Harnessing the genetic power and experimental accessibility of this system, three decades of research have identified key genes and pathways that control the development of multiple organ systems and tissues, including the heart, kidney, and craniofacial cartilage, as well as the hematopoietic, vascular, and central and peripheral nervous systems [7–31]. In addition to their application in large mutagenic screens, zebrafish has been used to model a variety of diseases such as diabetes, polycystic kidney disease, muscular dystrophy and cancer [32–36]. As this work continues to intersect with cellular pathways and processes such as lipid metabolism, glycosylation and vesicle trafficking, investigators are often faced with the challenge of determining the degree to which these pathways are functionally conserved in zebrafish. While they share a high degree of genetic homology with mouse and human, the manner in which cellular pathways are regulated in zebrafish during early development, and the differences in the organ physiology, warrant consideration before functional studies can be effectively interpreted and compared with other vertebrate systems. This point is particularly relevant for glycosylation since an understanding of the glycan diversity and the mechanisms that control glycan biosynthesis during zebrafish embryogenesis (as in many organisms) is still developing.
Nonetheless, a growing number of studies in zebrafish have begun to cast light on the functional roles of specific classes of glycans during organ and tissue development. While many of the initial efforts involved characterizing identified mutants in a number of glycosylation pathways, the use of reverse genetic approaches to directly model glycosylation-related disorders is now increasingly popular. In this review, the glycomics of zebrafish and the developmental expression of their glycans will be briefly summarized along with recent chemical biology approaches to visualize certain classes of glycans within developing embryos. Work regarding the role of protein-bound glycans and glycosaminoglycans (GAG) in zebrafish development and organogenesis will also be highlighted. Lastly, future opportunities and challenges in the expanding field of zebrafish glycobiology are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3718303  PMID: 22638861
Zebrafish; Glycosylation; Development; Sialylation; Glycosaminoglycans; N-glycans; Mucins; Cartilage
13.  Rapid identification and recovery of ENU-induced mutations with next-generation sequencing and Paired-End Low-Error analysis 
BMC Genomics  2015;16(1):83.
Targeting Induced Local Lesions IN Genomes (TILLING) is a reverse genetics approach to directly identify point mutations in specific genes of interest in genomic DNA from a large chemically mutagenized population. Classical TILLING processes, based on enzymatic detection of mutations in heteroduplex PCR amplicons, are slow and labor intensive.
Here we describe a new TILLING strategy in zebrafish using direct next generation sequencing (NGS) of 250bp amplicons followed by Paired-End Low-Error (PELE) sequence analysis. By pooling a genomic DNA library made from over 9,000 N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU) mutagenized F1 fish into 32 equal pools of 288 fish, each with a unique Illumina barcode, we reduce the complexity of the template to a level at which we can detect mutations that occur in a single heterozygous fish in the entire library. MiSeq sequencing generates 250 base-pair overlapping paired-end reads, and PELE analysis aligns the overlapping sequences to each other and filters out any imperfect matches, thereby eliminating variants introduced during the sequencing process. We find that this filtering step reduces the number of false positive calls 50-fold without loss of true variant calls. After PELE we were able to validate 61.5% of the mutant calls that occurred at a frequency between 1 mutant call:100 wildtype calls and 1 mutant call:1000 wildtype calls in a pool of 288 fish. We then use high-resolution melt analysis to identify the single heterozygous mutation carrier in the 288-fish pool in which the mutation was identified.
Using this NGS-TILLING protocol we validated 28 nonsense or splice site mutations in 20 genes, at a two-fold higher efficiency than using traditional Cel1 screening. We conclude that this approach significantly increases screening efficiency and accuracy at reduced cost and can be applied in a wide range of organisms.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-015-1263-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4457992  PMID: 25886285
TILLING; Zebrafish; Next-generation sequencing; PELE analysis; Rare mutation detection
14.  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
15.  Application of TILLING and EcoTILLING as Reverse Genetic Approaches to Elucidate the Function of Genes in Plants and Animals 
Current Genomics  2008;9(4):212-226.
With the fairly recent advent of inexpensive, rapid sequencing technologies that continue to improve sequencing efficiency and accuracy, many species of animals, plants, and microbes have annotated genomic information publicly available. The focus on genomics has thus been shifting from the collection of whole sequenced genomes to the study of functional genomics. Reverse genetic approaches have been used for many years to advance from sequence data to the resulting phenotype in an effort to deduce the function of a gene in the species of interest. Many of the currently used approaches (RNAi, gene knockout, site-directed mutagenesis, transposon tagging) rely on the creation of transgenic material, the development of which is not always feasible for many plant or animal species. TILLING is a non-transgenic reverse genetics approach that is applicable to all animal and plant species which can be mutagenized, regardless of its mating / pollinating system, ploidy level, or genome size. This approach requires prior DNA sequence information and takes advantage of a mismatch endonuclease to locate and detect induced mutations. Ultimately, it can provide an allelic series of silent, missense, nonsense, and splice site mutations to examine the effect of various mutations in a gene. TILLING has proven to be a practical, efficient, and an effective approach for functional genomic studies in numerous plant and animal species. EcoTILLING, which is a variant of TILLING, examines natural genetic variation in populations and has been successfully utilized in animals and plants to discover SNPs including rare ones. In this review, TILLING and EcoTILLING techniques, beneficial applications and limitations from plant and animal studies are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2682938  PMID: 19452039
Reverse genetics; functional genomics; TILLING (target induced local lesions in genomes); EcoTILLING (Ecotype TILLING); sequencing; SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism); genetic stocks.
16.  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
17.  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
18.  Engineering Melon Plants with Improved Fruit Shelf Life Using the TILLING Approach 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e15776.
Fruit ripening and softening are key traits that have an effect on food supply, fruit nutritional value and consequently, human health. Since ethylene induces ripening of climacteric fruit, it is one of the main targets to control fruit over ripening that leads to fruit softening and deterioration. The characterization of the ethylene pathway in Arabidopsis and tomato identified key genes that control fruit ripening.
Methodology/Principal Findings
To engineer melon fruit with improved shelf-life, we conducted a translational research experiment. We set up a TILLING platform in a monoecious and climacteric melon line, cloned genes that control ethylene production and screened for induced mutations that lead to fruits with enhanced shelf life. Two missense mutations, L124F and G194D, of the ethylene biosynthetic enzyme, ACC oxidase 1, were identified and the mutant plants were characterized with respect to fruit maturation. The L124F mutation is a conservative mutation occurring away from the enzyme active site and thus was predicted to not affect ethylene production and thus fruit ripening. In contrast, G194D modification occurs in a highly conserved amino acid position predicted, by crystallographic analysis, to affect the enzymatic activity. Phenotypic analysis of the G194D mutant fruit showed complete delayed ripening and yellowing with improved shelf life and, as predicted, the L124F mutation did not have an effect.
We constructed a mutant collection of 4023 melon M2 families. Based on the TILLING of 11 genes, we calculated the overall mutation rate of one mutation every 573 kb and identified 8 alleles per tilled kilobase. We also identified a TILLING mutant with enhanced fruit shelf life. This work demonstrates the effectiveness of TILLING as a reverse genetics tool to improve crop species. As cucurbits are model species in different areas of plant biology, we anticipate that the developed tool will be widely exploited by the scientific community.
PMCID: PMC3012703  PMID: 21209891
19.  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
20.  Validation of doubled haploid plants by enzymatic mismatch cleavage 
Plant Methods  2013;9:43.
Doubled haploidy is a fundamental tool in plant breeding as it provides the fastest way to generate populations of meiotic recombinants in a genetically fixed state. A wide range of methods has been developed to produce doubled haploid (DH) plants and recent advances promise efficient DH production in otherwise recalcitrant species. Since the cellular origin of the plants produced is not always certain, rapid screening techniques are needed to validate that the produced individuals are indeed homozygous and genetically distinct from each other. Ideal methods are easily implemented across species and in crops where whole genome sequence and marker resources are limited.
We have adapted enzymatic mismatch cleavage techniques commonly used for TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions IN Genomes) for the evaluation of heterozygosity in parental, F1 and putative DH plants. We used barley as a model crop and tested 26 amplicons previously developed for TILLING. Experiments were performed using self-extracted single-strand-specific nuclease and standard native agarose gels. Eleven of the twenty-six tested primers allowed unambiguous assignment of heterozygosity in material from F1 crosses and loss of heterozygosity in the DH plants. Through parallel testing of previously developed Simple Sequence Repeat (SSR) markers, we show that 3/32 SSR markers were suitable for screening. This suggests that enzymatic mismatch cleavage approaches can be more efficient than SSR based screening, even in species with well-developed markers.
Enzymatic mismatch cleavage has been applied for mutation discovery in many plant species, including those with little or no available genomic DNA sequence information. Here, we show that the same methods provide an efficient system to screen for the production of DH material without the need of specialized equipment. This gene target based approach further allows discovery of novel nucleotide polymorphisms in candidate genes in the parental lines.
PMCID: PMC3831592  PMID: 24220637
Polymorphism discovery; TILLING; Single-strand-specific nuclease; Loss of heterozygosity
21.  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
22.  The Identification of Zebrafish Mutants Showing Alterations in Senescence-Associated Biomarkers 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(8):e1000152.
There is an interesting overlap of function in a wide range of organisms between genes that modulate the stress responses and those that regulate aging phenotypes and, in some cases, lifespan. We have therefore screened mutagenized zebrafish embryos for the altered expression of a stress biomarker, senescence-associated β-galactosidase (SA-β-gal) in our current study. We validated the use of embryonic SA-β-gal production as a screening tool by analyzing a collection of retrovirus-insertional mutants. From a pool of 306 such mutants, we identified 11 candidates that showed higher embryonic SA-β-gal activity, two of which were selected for further study. One of these mutants is null for a homologue of Drosophila spinster, a gene known to regulate lifespan in flies, whereas the other harbors a mutation in a homologue of the human telomeric repeat binding factor 2 (terf2) gene, which plays roles in telomere protection and telomere-length regulation. Although the homozygous spinster and terf2 mutants are embryonic lethal, heterozygous adult fish are viable and show an accelerated appearance of aging symptoms including lipofuscin accumulation, which is another biomarker, and shorter lifespan. We next used the same SA-β-gal assay to screen chemically mutagenized zebrafish, each of which was heterozygous for lesions in multiple genes, under the sensitizing conditions of oxidative stress. We obtained eight additional mutants from this screen that, when bred to homozygosity, showed enhanced SA-β-gal activity even in the absence of stress, and further displayed embryonic neural and muscular degenerative phenotypes. Adult fish that are heterozygous for these mutations also showed the premature expression of aging biomarkers and the accelerated onset of aging phenotypes. Our current strategy of mutant screening for a senescence-associated biomarker in zebrafish embryos may thus prove to be a useful new tool for the genetic dissection of vertebrate stress response and senescence mechanisms.
Author Summary
By performing genetic mutant screens using senescence-associated biomarkers, we show that the zebrafish is a tractable model system for the study of aging. In vertebrate organisms, it has not previously been possible to carry out systematic screens for genes that are important for stress responses and aging in an unbiased way. However, such vertebrate models are of considerable importance, given the provocative evidence of common biochemical and functional pathways modulating stress responses and lifespan as well as aging in a wide range of organisms. Our present study has successfully employed a colorimetric high-throughput method using a senescence-associated β-galactosidase-based assay to screen for mutations that alter the stress responses in zebrafish embryos, in the hope that these might represent potential aging mutants. Subsequently, the mutations identified by embryonic senescence have indeed displayed adult aging-related phenotypes in zebrafish. Hence, our method for the identification of mutant zebrafish has the immediate potential to accelerate the discovery of novel genes and new functions relevant for our understanding of aging processes in vertebrates. Such knowledge will be essential for the ultimate development of pharmacological, nutritional, and behavioral interventions for the amelioration of oxidative stress- and age-associated diseases and disabilities in humans.
PMCID: PMC2515337  PMID: 18704191
23.  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
24.  Mutation Scanning in Wheat by Exon Capture and Next-Generation Sequencing 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(9):e0137549.
Targeted Induced Local Lesions in Genomes (TILLING) is a reverse genetics approach to identify novel sequence variation in genomes, with the aims of investigating gene function and/or developing useful alleles for breeding. Despite recent advances in wheat genomics, most current TILLING methods are low to medium in throughput, being based on PCR amplification of the target genes. We performed a pilot-scale evaluation of TILLING in wheat by next-generation sequencing through exon capture. An oligonucleotide-based enrichment array covering ~2 Mbp of wheat coding sequence was used to carry out exon capture and sequencing on three mutagenised lines of wheat containing previously-identified mutations in the TaGA20ox1 homoeologous genes. After testing different mapping algorithms and settings, candidate SNPs were identified by mapping to the IWGSC wheat Chromosome Survey Sequences. Where sequence data for all three homoeologues were found in the reference, mutant calls were unambiguous; however, where the reference lacked one or two of the homoeologues, captured reads from these genes were mis-mapped to other homoeologues, resulting either in dilution of the variant allele frequency or assignment of mutations to the wrong homoeologue. Competitive PCR assays were used to validate the putative SNPs and estimate cut-off levels for SNP filtering. At least 464 high-confidence SNPs were detected across the three mutagenized lines, including the three known alleles in TaGA20ox1, indicating a mutation rate of ~35 SNPs per Mb, similar to that estimated by PCR-based TILLING. This demonstrates the feasibility of using exon capture for genome re-sequencing as a method of mutation detection in polyploid wheat, but accurate mutation calling will require an improved genomic reference with more comprehensive coverage of homoeologues.
PMCID: PMC4559439  PMID: 26335335
25.  Development of a Cucumis sativus TILLinG Platform for Forward and Reverse Genetics 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e97963.
Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family that includes more than 800 species. The cucumber genome has been recently sequenced and annotated. Transcriptomics and genome sequencing of many plant genomes are providing information on candidate genes potentially related to agronomically important traits. To accelerate functional characterization of these genes in cucumber we have generated an EMS mutant population that can be used as a TILLinG platform for reverse genetics.
Principal Findings
A population of 3,331 M2 mutant seed families was generated using two EMS concentrations (0.5% and 0.75%). Genomic DNA was extracted from M2 families and eight-fold pooled for mutation detection by ENDO1 nuclease. To assess the quality of the mutant collection, we screened for induced mutations in five genes and identified 26 mutations. The average mutation rate was calculated as 1/1147 Kb giving rise to approximately 320 mutations per genome. We focused our characterization on three missense mutations, G33C, S238F and S249F identified in the CsACS2 sex determination gene. Protein modeling and crystallography studies predicted that mutation at G33 may affect the protein function, whereas mutations at S238 and S249 may not impair the protein function. As predicted, detailed phenotypic evaluation showed that the S238F and the S249F mutant lines had no sexual phenotype. In contrast, plants homozygous for the G33C mutation showed a complete sexual transition from monoecy to andromonoecy. This result demonstrates that TILLinG is a valuable tool for functional validation of gene function in crops recalcitrant to transgenic transformation.
We have developed a cucumber mutant population that can be used as an efficient reverse genetics tool. The cucumber TILLinG collection as well as the previously described melon TILLinG collection will prove to be a valuable resource for both fundamental research and the identification of agronomically-important genes for crop improvement in cucurbits in general.
PMCID: PMC4024006  PMID: 24835852

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