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French Researchers Create Genetic Reference Collection of Pea Mutants

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – French scientists today reported that they have created — and started characterizing — a compendium of pea mutants within one genetic background.
As part of the European Grain Legumes Integrated Project, a team of a dozen scientists at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research used targeted ethane methyl sulfonate mutagenesis to create a genetic reference collection of pea, or Pisum sativum, mutants. The group is touting the work, which appeared online in the journal Genome Biology today, as a step forward in pea genomics and genetic engineering.
Many agricultural plants can be genetically modified using a vector from a bacterium called Agrobacterium as a Trojan horse for delivering foreign genes to be incorporated into the plant. But pea plants are notoriously finicky and usually resist such meddling.
Senior author Abdelhafid Bendahmane, a researcher with the French National Institute for Agricultural Research’s Plant Genomics Research Unit, and his colleagues used an approach called Targeting Induced Local Lesions In Genomes, or TILLING — a targeted genetic modification based on ethane methyl sulfonate induced mutagenesis — to create a group of characterized pea mutants within one genetic background.
Starting with a cultivar called Caméor, the team made 4,817 mutants lines by TILLING. Of these, nearly 40 percent displayed a characteristic, visible phenotype at some point in development. Bendahmane’s team developed an online database of the collection — including phenotypic and sequence information —called UTILLdb, which is available to others interested in using the new lines.
“We have developed a complete tool that can be used for both forward (EMS saturated mutant collection and the associated phenotypic database) and reverse (high-throughput TILLING platform) genetics in pea, for both basic science or crop improvement,” the authors wrote. “Hence, by opening it to the community, we hope to fulfill the expectations of both crop breeders and scientists who are using pea as their model of study.”

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