Trapping genes that control flower development

Identifying genes based on patterns of gene expression in specific organs or at specific stages of development is a useful approach to improving our understanding of complex biological processes. Scientists Vivian Irish at Yale University in Connecticut, Rob Martienssen at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, and their colleagues used a strategy known as "gene trapping" to identify numerous genes involved in the regulation of flower development in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. The research is reported in a paper by Nakayama et al. in the September issue of The Plant Cell. The gene trap technique involves genetic transformation of Arabidopsis plants with a reporter gene whose activity is visualized in a simple assay, leading to the rapid identification of genes that show specific patterns of expression. In this case, the researchers isolated 80 different gene trap Arabidopsis lines identifying genes that show distinct patterns of expression in flower petals and/or stamens (the pollen-bearing organs). The research is one of the first large-scale gene trap studies in the area of flower development, and provides extensive information on many genes likely to have critical roles in this essential stage of plant reproduction. Genes provide the blueprints for proteins that carry out the functions of living cells. In any particular organ or tissue at any particular stage of development, gene activity may be "on" (expressing the messenger RNA transcripts that lead to production of the corresponding protein) or "off" (no expression). Examining gene expression patterns therefore provides information on gene function. Gene trapping is an alternative to methods such as DNA microarray analysis for the detection of differentially expressed genes, and has the advantage of identifying subtle differences in expression patterns within target organs. For example, genes expressed only in stamen tissue during the early stages of pollen development are likely to have

Contact: Nancy Eckardt
American Society of Plant Biologists

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