T-DNA insertional mutations in Arabidopsis genes have conferred huge benefits to the research community, greatly facilitating gene function analyses. However, the insertion process can cause chromosomal rearrangements. Here, we show an example of a likely rearrangement following T-DNA insertion in the Anti-Silencing Function 1B (ASF1B) gene locus on Arabidopsis chromosome 5, so that the phenotype was not relevant to the gene of interest, ASF1B. ASF1 is a histone H3/H4 chaperone involved in chromatin remodeling in the sporophyte and during reproduction. Plants that were homozygous for mutant alleles asf1a or asf1b were developmentally normal. However, following self-fertilization of double heterozygotes (ASF1A/asf1a ASF1B/asf1b, hereafter AaBb), defects were visible in both male and female gametes. Half of the AaBb and aaBb ovules displayed arrested embryo sacs with functional megaspore identity. Similarly, half of the AaBb and aaBb pollen grains showed centromere defects, resulting in pollen abortion at the bi-cellular stage of the male gametophyte. However, inheritance of the mutant allele in a given gamete did not solely determine the abortion phenotype. Introducing functional ASF1B failed to rescue the AaBb- and aaBb- mediated abortion, suggesting that heterozygosity in the ASF1B gene causes gametophytic defects, rather than the loss of ASF1. The presence of reproductive defects in heterozygous mutants but not in homozygotes, and the characteristic all-or-nothing pollen viability within tetrads, were both indicative of commonly-observed T-DNA-mediated translocation activity for this allele. Our observations reinforce the importance of complementation tests in assigning gene function using reverse genetics.
Keywords: T-DNA insertion; chromosomal rearrangement; gametogenesis.
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