Functional & Integrative Genomics

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 258–266 | Cite as

Activation tagging in plants: a tool for gene discovery

  • Helen Tani
  • Xinwei Chen
  • Pedro Nurmberg
  • John J. Grant
  • Marjorie SantaMaria
  • Andrea Chini
  • Eleanor Gilroy
  • Paul R. J. Birch
  • Gary J. Loake
Original Paper


A significant limitation of classical loss-of-function screens designed to dissect genetic pathways is that they rarely uncover genes that function redundantly, are compensated by alternative metabolic or regulatory circuits, or which have an additional role in early embryo or gametophyte development. Activation T-DNA tagging is one approach that has emerged in plants to help circumvent these potential problems. This technique utilises a T-DNA sequence that contains four tandem copies of the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S enhancer sequence. This element enhances the expression of neighbouring genes either side of the randomly integrated T-DNA tag, resulting in gain-of-function phenotypes. Activation tagging has identified a number of genes fundamental to plant development, metabolism and disease resistance in Arabidopsis. This review provides selected examples of these discoveries to highlight the utility of this technology. The recent development of activation tagging strategies for other model plant systems and the construction of new more sophisticated vectors for the generation of conditional alleles are also discussed. These recent advances have significantly expanded the horizons for gain-of-function genetics in plants.


Activation tagging Gain-of-function genetics Functional genomics Disease resistance 



Helen Tani was supported by a grant from the Institute of State Scholarships (IKY), Pedro Nurmberg was supported by the CNPq and Andrea Chini was supported by a scholarship from the Darwin Trust. Eleanor Gilroy is the recipient of a BBSRC CASE studentship. G.J.L. is the recipient of BBSRC awards 15/P16595 and 15/P20067.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Tani
    • 1
  • Xinwei Chen
    • 1
  • Pedro Nurmberg
    • 1
  • John J. Grant
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marjorie SantaMaria
    • 1
    • 3
  • Andrea Chini
    • 1
  • Eleanor Gilroy
    • 1
    • 4
  • Paul R. J. Birch
    • 4
  • Gary J. Loake
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Cell and Molecular BiologyUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Department of Plant and Microbial SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.Department of Plant BiologyCarnegie Institution of WashingtonStanfordUSA
  4. 4.Division of PathologyScottish Crop Research InstituteDundeeUK

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