Bernard Mulligan. University of Nottingham, UK.


Arabidopsis as a Model organism.

Homeotic genes and development in a plant.

Elliot M. Meyerwotiz. 28 minutes

Video series: Knowledge Now in Experimental Biology

(Harvey F. Lodish, Series Editor)
Cogito Learning Media Inc. 1996
Phone: 1-800-93-THINK

Cost $125

After the books, the film, Arabidopsis as a model organism is one of six videos in the Model Organism series, the other focussing on the mouse, Drosophila, C.elegans, yeast and the phage lambda. The aim behind the series is to, "make the process of learning cutting-edge science a pleasure", for students and professional scientists alike.

The video begins with a brief survey of the importance of plants to mankind. Then, Elliot Meyerowitz presents the case for Arabidopsis, focussing on a genetic dissection of floral development as a text book example of the advantages of using model systems in developmental biology.

After a summary of the characteristic features of Arabidopsis, the discussion turns to the flower as a subject for study. The anatomy of Arabidopsis flowers is described in sufficient detail to set the scene for a more extensive examination of the role of homeotic genes in floral organ development. The procedures of seed mutagenesis are described in some detail, the importance of "knowing the organism" in order to detect mutant phenotypes is emphasised and the different phenotypes of the different classes of floral mutants are nicely illustrated. Then a model of floral development is proposed in which three classes of homeotic genes interact in the organ whorls. The hypothesis or the ABC model is then tested and confirmed by the construction of double mutants with predicted phenotypes. Approaches to gene cloning procedures and Arabidopsis transformation by vacuum infiltration are briefly described. Where to go next, what are the next questions to ask are discussed.

Finally, Chris Somerville and Fred Ausubel illustrate the biotechnological applications of Arabidopsis research using as examples, the production of biodegradable plastics in plants and the cloning of disease resistance genes.

The information is presented at about the right pace for a well informed science student, though the sections on the construction and testing of the model of floral development would require several viewings by the non-expert in order to digest all the relevant detail provided.

In different contexts the video would be valuable for teaching genetics/plant biology students from first year undergraduates to first year postgraduates. It would also be a useful stimulus to broader discussion. The illustrations (moving and still) are very good.

Arabidopsis as a Model organsim can be highly recommended.