A reliable method for preparing metaphase chromosomes from plant leaf tissues is described. The chromosomes are suitable for karyotype analysis and gene mapping by fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH). The method is based on enzymatic digestion of young leaf tissues (shoot-tips) after which the resulting protoplasts are treated hypotonically before being dropped onto microscopic slides. Compared to root-tip chromosomes, leaf chromosomes tend to be longer, or less condensed, and hence more karyotypically differentiated. Metaphase index in young leaf tissues is also very high. Metaphase spread consists of evenly and well-distributed chromosomes and this allows accurate counting. The plant used to demonstrate this method is birch (Betula L.), a group of tree species that has extremely small chromosomes. Root-tip chromosomes of these plants are difficult to obtain, as cutting does not produce roots readily. Seedling chromosomes do not represent the same genomic constitution as their mother trees due to introgressive hybridisation. Furthermore, sample collection in the field is convenient and actively growing leaf buds are available throughout the growing season. FISH experiments with these leaf chromosomes also give good results comparable to those obtained with root-tip chromosomes or even better as mapping on long or extended chromosomes has high resolution in general. Mapping of the 16S-28S ribosomal genes on birch leaf chromosomes has been shown to differentiate between birch species and therefore can accurately confirm their interspecific hybrids.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
I thank Ægir Thór Thórsson and Elina Salmela for their considerable help in testing this protocol. Funding from the Icelandic Research Council and the University of Iceland is appreciated.
- Birch (Betula)
- Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH)