The targeting of chromosomal genes via homologous recombination (HR) is an essential tool of reverse genetics as applied for the functional assay of genes within complex genomes. However, in higher plants, foreign DNA integrates almost exclusively at random, non-homologous sites. A variety of environmental parameters known to influence levels of HR do not increase targeting frequencies when combined in gene-targeting experiments. The identification of cellular factors that may control the level of chromosomal HR in plant somatic cells is required. Plant genes encoding proteins similar to those involved in HR in other organisms can be found in the expanding sequence databases. Evidence for evolutionary conservation should help to decipher mechanisms of plant HR and possibly detect limiting factors. At present, however, only one genetic locus influencing levels of chromosomal recombination in plants has been well defined. Here we summarise current knowledge of HR and the status of gene targeting (GT) in plants, focusing on genetic approaches to molecular factors regulating HR levels.
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