Open Access Research article

An archived activation tagged population of Arabidopsis thaliana to facilitate forward genetics approaches

Stephen J Robinson1, Lily H Tang1, Brent AG Mooney1, Sheldon J McKay12, Wayne E Clarke1, Matthew G Links1, Steven Karcz1, Sharon Regan3, Yun-Yun Wu3, Margaret Y Gruber1, Dejun Cui1, Min Yu1 and Isobel AP Parkin1*

Author Affiliations

1 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Saskatoon Research Centre, 107 Science Place, Saskatoon, S7N 0X2, Canada

2 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 1 Bungtown Road, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724, USA

3 Department of Biology, Biosciences Complex, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, K7L 3N6, Canada

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BMC Plant Biology 2009, 9:101  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-9-101

Published: 31 July 2009



Functional genomics tools provide researchers with the ability to apply high-throughput techniques to determine the function and interaction of a diverse range of genes. Mutagenised plant populations are one such resource that facilitate gene characterisation. They allow complex physiological responses to be correlated with the expression of single genes in planta, through either reverse genetics where target genes are mutagenised to assay the affect, or through forward genetics where populations of mutant lines are screened to identify those whose phenotype diverges from wild type for a particular trait. One limitation of these types of populations is the prevalence of gene redundancy within plant genomes, which can mask the affect of individual genes. Activation or enhancer populations, which not only provide knock-out but also dominant activation mutations, can facilitate the study of such genes.


We have developed a population of almost 50,000 activation tagged A. thaliana lines that have been archived as individual lines to the T3 generation. The population is an excellent tool for both reverse and forward genetic screens and has been used successfully to identify a number of novel mutants. Insertion site sequences have been generated and mapped for 15,507 lines to enable further application of the population, while providing a clear distribution of T-DNA insertions across the genome. The population is being screened for a number of biochemical and developmental phenotypes, provisional data identifying novel alleles and genes controlling steps in proanthocyanidin biosynthesis and trichome development is presented.


This publicly available population provides an additional tool for plant researcher's to assist with determining gene function for the many as yet uncharacterised genes annotated within the Arabidopsis genome sequence webcite. The presence of enhancer elements on the inserted T-DNA molecule allows both knock-out and dominant activation phenotypes to be identified for traits of interest.