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Open Access Research article

PCR-based landmark unique gene (PLUG) markers effectively assign homoeologous wheat genes to A, B and D genomes

Goro Ishikawa, Junichi Yonemaru, Mika Saito and Toshiki Nakamura*

Author Affiliations

Tohoku National Agriculture Research Center, Morioka, Iwate, 020-0198, Japan

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BMC Genomics 2007, 8:135  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-135

Published: 30 May 2007



EST-PCR markers normally represent specific products from target genes, and are therefore effective tools for genetic analysis. However, because wheat is an allohexaploid plant, PCR products derived from homoeologous genes are often simultaneously amplified. Such products may be easier to differentiate if they include intron sequences, which are more polymorphic than exon sequences. However, genomic sequence data for wheat are limited; therefore it is difficult to predict the location of introns. By using the similarities in gene structures between rice and wheat, we developed a system called PLUG (PCR-based Landmark Unique Gene) to design primers so that PCR products include intron sequences. We then investigated whether products amplified using such primers could serve as markers able to distinguish multiple products derived from homoeologous genes.


The PLUG system consists of the following steps: (1) Single-copy rice genes (Landmark Unique Gene loci; LUGs) exhibiting high degrees of homology to wheat UniGene sequences are extracted; (2) Alignment analysis is carried out using the LUGs and wheat UniGene sequences to predict exon-exon junctions, and LUGs which can be used to design wheat primers flanking introns (TaEST-LUGs) are extracted; and (3) Primers are designed in an interactive manner. From a total of 4,312 TaEST-LUGs, 24 loci were randomly selected and used to design primers. With all of these primer sets, we obtained specific, intron-containing products from the target genes. These markers were assigned to chromosomes using wheat nullisomic-tetrasomic lines. By PCR-RFLP analysis using agarose gel electrophoresis, 19 of the 24 markers were located on at least one chromosome.


In the development of wheat EST-PCR markers capable of efficiently sorting products derived from homoeologous genes, it is important to design primers able to amplify products that include intron sequences with insertion/deletion polymorphisms. Using the PLUG system, wheat EST sequences that can be used for marker development are selected based on comparative genomics with rice, and then primer sets flanking intron sequences are prepared in an interactive, semi-automatic manner. Hence, the PLUG system is an effective tool for large-scale marker development.