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Plant Methods. 2017 May 15;13:36. doi: 10.1186/s13007-017-0183-5. eCollection 2017.

Building a multipurpose insertional mutant library for forward and reverse genetics in Chlamydomonas.

Cheng X#1,2, Liu G#1, Ke W1, Zhao L1,2, Lv B1,2, Ma X1,2, Xu N1,2, Xia X1, Deng X1, Zheng C3, Huang K1.

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Key Laboratory of Algal Biology, Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, 430072 China.
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100039 China.
College of Life Sciences, Hubei University, Wuhan, 430062 China.
Contributed equally



The unicellular green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, is a classic model for studying flagella and biofuel. However, precise gene editing, such as Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) and CRISPR-associated protein (Cas9) system, is not widely used in this organism. Screening of random insertional mutant libraries by polymerase chain reaction provides an alternate strategy to obtain null mutants of individual gene. But building, screening, and maintaining such a library was time-consuming and expensive.


By selecting a suitable parental strain, keeping individual mutants using the agar plate, and designing an insertion cassette-specific primer for library screening, we successfully generated and maintained ~150,000 insertional mutants of Chlamydomonas, which was used for both reverse and forward genetics analysis. We obtained 26 individual mutants corresponding to 20 genes and identified 967 motility-defect mutants including 10 mutants with defective accumulation of intraflagellar transport complex at the basal body. We also obtained 929 mutants defective in oil droplet assembly after nitrogen deprivation. Furthermore, a new insertion cassette with splicing donor sequences at both ends was also constructed, which increased the efficiency of gene interruption.


In summary, this library provides a multifunctional platform both for obtaining mutants of interested genes and for screening of mutants with specific phenotype.


Chlamydomonas; Flagella; Insertional mutants; Intraflagellar transport; Mutant library; Oil droplet

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