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OMICS. 2002;6(2):163-74.

Characterization of T-DNA insertion sites in Arabidopsis thaliana and the implications for saturation mutagenesis.

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Horticulture Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison 53706, USA.


A key component of a sound functional genomics infrastructure is the availability of a knockout mutant for every gene in the genome. A fruitful approach to systematically knockingout genes in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana has been the use of transferred-DNA (T-DNA) from Agrobacterium tumefaciens as an insertional mutagen. One of the assumptions underlying the use of T-DNA as a mutagen is that the insertion of these DNA elements into the Arabidopsis genome occurs at randomly selected locations. We have directly investigated the distribution of T-DNA insertions sites in populations of transformed Arabidopsis using two different approaches. To begin with, we utilized a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) procedure to systematically catalog the precise locations of all the T-DNA elements inserted within a 65 kb segment of chromosome IV. Of the 47 T-DNA insertions identified, 30% were found within the coding regions of genes. We also documented the insertion of T-DNA elements within the centromeric region of chromosome IV. In addition to these targeted T-DNA screens, we also mapped the genomic locations of 583 randomly chosen T-DNA elements by sequencing the genomic DNA flanking the insertion sites from individual T-DNA-transformed lines. 35% of these randomly chosen T-DNA insertions were located within the coding regions of genes. For comparison, coding sequences account for 44% of the Arabidopsis genome. Our results demonstrate that there is a small bias towards recovering T-DNA insertions within intergenic regions. However, this bias does not limit the utility of T-DNA as an effective insertional mutagen for use in reverse-genetic strategies.

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