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Plant Physiol. 2009 Nov;151(3):1077-86. doi: 10.1104/pp.109.142919. Epub 2009 Sep 16.

Deletion-based reverse genetics in Medicago truncatula.

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Department of Disease, John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Norwich NR4 7UH, United Kingdom.


The primary goal of reverse genetics, the identification of null mutations in targeted genes, is achieved through screening large populations of randomly mutagenized plants. T-DNA and transposon-based mutagenesis has been widely employed but is limited to species in which transformation and tissue culture are efficient. In other species, TILLING (for Targeting Induced Local Lesions IN Genomes), based on chemical mutagenesis, has provided an efficient method for the identification of single base pair mutations, only 5% of which will be null mutations. Furthermore, the efficiency of inducing point mutations, like insertion-based mutations, is dependent on target size. Here, we describe an alternative reverse genetic strategy based on physically induced genomic deletions that, independent of target size, exclusively recovers knockout mutants. Deletion TILLING (De-TILLING) employs fast neutron mutagenesis and a sensitive polymerase chain reaction-based detection. A population of 156,000 Medicago truncatula plants has been structured as 13 towers each representing 12,000 M2 plants. The De-TILLING strategy allows a single tower to be screened using just four polymerase chain reaction reactions. Dual screening and three-dimensional pooling allows efficient location of mutants from within the towers. With this method, we have demonstrated the detection of mutants from this population at a rate of 29% using five targets per gene. This De-TILLING reverse genetic strategy is independent of tissue culture and efficient plant transformation and therefore applicable to any plant species. De-TILLING mutants offer advantages for crop improvement as they possess relatively few background mutations and no exogenous DNA.

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