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1.  Polyploid genome of Camelina sativa revealed by isolation of fatty acid synthesis genes 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:233.
Camelina sativa, an oilseed crop in the Brassicaceae family, has inspired renewed interest due to its potential for biofuels applications. Little is understood of the nature of the C. sativa genome, however. A study was undertaken to characterize two genes in the fatty acid biosynthesis pathway, fatty acid desaturase (FAD) 2 and fatty acid elongase (FAE) 1, which revealed unexpected complexity in the C. sativa genome.
In C. sativa, Southern analysis indicates the presence of three copies of both FAD2 and FAE1 as well as LFY, a known single copy gene in other species. All three copies of both CsFAD2 and CsFAE1 are expressed in developing seeds, and sequence alignments show that previously described conserved sites are present, suggesting that all three copies of both genes could be functional. The regions downstream of CsFAD2 and upstream of CsFAE1 demonstrate co-linearity with the Arabidopsis genome. In addition, three expressed haplotypes were observed for six predicted single-copy genes in 454 sequencing analysis and results from flow cytometry indicate that the DNA content of C. sativa is approximately three-fold that of diploid Camelina relatives. Phylogenetic analyses further support a history of duplication and indicate that C. sativa and C. microcarpa might share a parental genome.
There is compelling evidence for triplication of the C. sativa genome, including a larger chromosome number and three-fold larger measured genome size than other Camelina relatives, three isolated copies of FAD2, FAE1, and the KCS17-FAE1 intergenic region, and three expressed haplotypes observed for six predicted single-copy genes. Based on these results, we propose that C. sativa be considered an allohexaploid. The characterization of fatty acid synthesis pathway genes will allow for the future manipulation of oil composition of this emerging biofuel crop; however, targeted manipulations of oil composition and general development of C. sativa should consider and, when possible take advantage of, the implications of polyploidy.
PMCID: PMC3017853  PMID: 20977772
2.  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
3.  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
4.  Large-scale polymorphism of heterochromatic repeats in the DNA of Arabidopsis thaliana 
BMC Plant Biology  2007;7:44.
The composition of the individual eukaryote's genome and its variation within a species remain poorly defined. Even for a sequenced genome such as that of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana accession Col-0, the large arrays of heterochromatic repeats are incompletely sequenced, with gaps of uncertain size persisting in them.
Using geographically separate populations of A. thaliana, we assayed variation in the heterochromatic repeat arrays using two independent methods and identified significant polymorphism among them, with variation by as much as a factor of two in the centromeric 180 bp repeat, in the 45S rDNA arrays and in the Athila retroelements. In the accession with highest genome size as measured by flow cytometry, Loh-0, we found more than a two-fold increase in 5S RNA gene copies relative to Col-0; results from fluorescence in situ hybridization with 5S probes were consistent with the existence of size polymorphism between Loh-0 and Col-0 at the 5S loci. Comparative genomic hybridization results of Loh-0 and Col-0 did not support contiguous variation in copy number of protein-coding genes on the scale needed to explain their observed genome size difference. We developed a computational data model to test whether the variation we measured in the repeat fractions could account for the different genome sizes determined with flow cytometry, and found that this proposed relationship could account for about 50% of the variance in genome size among the accessions.
Our analyses are consistent with substantial repeat number polymorphism for 5S and 45S ribosomal genes among accession of A. thaliana. Differences are also suggested for centromeric and pericentromeric repeats. Our analysis also points to the difficulties in measuring the repeated fraction of the genome and suggests that independent validation of genome size should be sought in addition to flow cytometric measurements.
PMCID: PMC2000876  PMID: 17705842
5.  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
6.  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

Results 1-6 (6)