Insertional mutagenesis in Populus: Relevance and feasibility

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The recent sequencing of the first tree genome, that of the black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa), opens a new chapter in tree functional genomics. While the completion of the genome is a milestone, mobilizing this significant resource for better understanding the growth and development of woody perennials will be an even greater undertaking in the years to come. In other model organisms, a critical tool for high-throughput analysis of gene function has been the generation of large mutagenized populations. Some mutagenesis technologies and approaches cannot be applied to trees because of their typically outcrossing breeding systems, high heterozygosity, large body size, and delayed flowering. In contrast, gene-tagging approaches that use insertional mutagenesis to create dominant phenotypes are ideally suited for trees and, especially, Populus. Both activation tagging and enhancer trap programs have been successful in identifying new genes important to tree development. The generation of genome-wide insertional mutant populations, which provide direct functional links between genes and phenotypes, should help to integrate in silico analyses of gene and protein expression, association studies of natural genetic polymorphism, and phenotypic analyses of adaptation and development. © Springer-Verlag 2005.

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Tree Genetics and Genomes