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Advances in plant gene-targeted and functional markers: a review

Péter Poczai1*, Ildikó Varga1, Maarja Laos2, András Cseh3, Neil Bell14, Jari PT Valkonen5 and Jaakko Hyvönen1

Author Affiliations

1 Plant Biology, Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, PO Box 65, 00014, Helsinki, FIN, Finland

2 Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki, PO Box 65, 00014, Helsinki, FIN, Finland

3 Agricultural Institute, Centre of Agricultural Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, PO Box 19, H-2462, Martonvásár, Hungary

4 Botanical Museum, University of Helsinki, PO Box 7, 00014, Helsinki, FIN, Finland

5 Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Helsinki, PO Box 27, 00014, Helsinki, FIN, Finland

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Plant Methods 2013, 9:6  doi:10.1186/1746-4811-9-6

Published: 13 February 2013


Public genomic databases have provided new directions for molecular marker development and initiated a shift in the types of PCR-based techniques commonly used in plant science. Alongside commonly used arbitrarily amplified DNA markers, other methods have been developed. Targeted fingerprinting marker techniques are based on the well-established practices of arbitrarily amplified DNA methods, but employ novel methodological innovations such as the incorporation of gene or promoter elements in the primers. These markers provide good reproducibility and increased resolution by the concurrent incidence of dominant and co-dominant bands. Despite their promising features, these semi-random markers suffer from possible problems of collision and non-homology analogous to those found with randomly generated fingerprints. Transposable elements, present in abundance in plant genomes, may also be used to generate fingerprints. These markers provide increased genomic coverage by utilizing specific targeted sites and produce bands that mostly seem to be homologous. The biggest drawback with most of these techniques is that prior genomic information about retrotransposons is needed for primer design, prohibiting universal applications. Another class of recently developed methods exploits length polymorphism present in arrays of multi-copy gene families such as cytochrome P450 and β-tubulin genes to provide cross-species amplification and transferability. A specific class of marker makes use of common features of plant resistance genes to generate bands linked to a given phenotype, or to reveal genetic diversity. Conserved DNA-based strategies have limited genome coverage and may fail to reveal genetic diversity, while resistance genes may be under specific evolutionary selection. Markers may also be generated from functional and/or transcribed regions of the genome using different gene-targeting approaches coupled with the use of RNA information. Such techniques have the potential to generate phenotypically linked functional markers, especially when fingerprints are generated from the transcribed or expressed region of the genome. It is to be expected that these recently developed techniques will generate larger datasets, but their shortcomings should also be acknowledged and carefully investigated.

DNA fingerprinting; Functional markers; Gene targeting; Genomic database; Molecular markers