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Gene guns and biolistics

25 May, 2011

Simon Deroles from Plant & Food Research designs and builds gene guns and uses them to test for gene expression, particularly genes that control for pigments in flowers.

Listen to audio: Biolistics

Duration: 13:09

Using a gene gun for plant research

Simon Deroles describes the gene gun as a “microscopic shotgun”. Gene guns use helium under vacuum to shoot gold nanoparticles with genes attached into plants.

This technique, called biolistics, was one of the tools used by Roger Hellens and his colleagues to test for the gene controlling flower colour in Mendel's peas.

Get information sheet: Identifying Mendel’s pea genes

Understanding how genes control flower colour

At Plant & Food Research, they are trying to understand the genes involved in flower colour. The gene gun provides a fast way of finding out how a single gene can affect pigment biosynthesis and influence flower colour. This information can be used to breed new flower cultivars.

To see the gun in action, Ruth Beran visits Simon Deroles in Palmerston North, and he shows her how snapdragon (Antirrhinum) flower petals are shot with a regulatory gene to turn on pigment biosynthesis. A green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter gene is also used to determine how successful the shooting procedure has been.

Programme details: Our Changing World

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