An assessment of transgenomics as a tool for identifying genes involved in the evolutionary differentiation of closely related plant species


Author for correspondence:
David A. Baum
Tel: +1 608 265 5305


  • Transgenomics is the process of introducing genomic clones from a donor species into a recipient species and then screening the resultant transgenic lines for phenotypes of interest. This method might allow us to find genes involved in the evolution of phenotypic differences between species as well as genes that have the potential to contribute to reproductive isolation: potential speciation genes.
  • More than 1100 20-kbp genomic clones from Leavenworthia alabamica were moved into Arabidopsis thaliana by transformation. After screening a single primary transformant for each line, clones associated with mutant phenotypes were tested for repeatability and co-segregation.
  • We found 84 clones with possible phenotypic effects, of which eight were repeatedly associated with the same phenotype. One clone, 11_11B, co-segregated with a short fruit phenotype. Further study showed that 11_11B affects seed development, with as much as one-third of the seeds aborted in some fruit.
  • Transgenomics is a viable strategy for discovering genes of evolutionary interest. We identify methods to reduce false positives and false negatives in the future. 11_11B can be viewed as a potential speciation gene, illustrating the value of transgenomics for studying the molecular basis of reproductive isolation.