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BACKGROUND: In situ hybridisation can provide cellular, and in some cases sub-cellular, resolution of mRNA levels within multicellular organisms and is widely used to provide spatial and temporal information on gene expression. However, standard protocols are complex and laborious to implement, restricting analysis to one or a few genes at any one time. Whole-mount and reverse transcriptase-PCR (RT-PCR) based protocols increase throughput, but can compromise both specificity and resolution. With the advent of genome-wide analysis of gene expression, there is an urgent need to develop high-throughput in situ methods that also provide high resolution. RESULTS: Here we describe the development of a method for performing high-throughput in situ hybridisations that retains both the high resolution and the specificity of the best manual versions. This refined semi-automated protocol has the potential for determining the spatial and temporal expression patterns of hundreds of genes in parallel on a variety of tissues. We show how tissue sections can be organized on microscope slides in a manner that allows the screening of multiple probes on each slide. Slide handling, hybridisation and processing steps have been streamlined providing a capacity of at least 200 probes per week (depending on the tissue type). The technique can be applied easily to different species and tissue types, and we illustrate this with wheat seed and Arabidopsis floral meristems, siliques and seedlings. CONCLUSION: The approach has the high specificity and high resolution of previous in situ methods while allowing for the analysis of several genes expression patterns in parallel. This method has the potential to provide an analysis of gene expression patterns at the genome level.

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Journal article


Plant Methods

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