Somatic embryogenesis (SE), by which somatic cells of higher plants can dedifferentiate and reorganize into new plants, is a notable illustration of cell totipotency. However, the precise molecular mechanisms regulating SE remain unclear. To characterize the molecular events of this unique process, transcriptome analysis, in combination with biochemical and histological approaches, were conducted in cotton, a typical plant species in SE. Genome-wide profiling of gene expression allowed the identification of novel molecular markers characteristic of this developmental process.
RNA-Seq was used to identify 5,076 differentially expressed genes during cotton SE. Expression profile and functional assignments of these genes indicated significant transcriptional complexity during this process, associated with morphological, histological changes and endogenous indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) alteration. Bioinformatics analysis showed that the genes were enriched for basic processes such as metabolic pathways and biosynthesis of secondary metabolites. Unigenes were abundant for the functions of protein binding and hydrolase activity. Transcription factor–encoding genes were found to be differentially regulated during SE. The complex pathways of auxin abundance, transport and response with differentially regulated genes revealed that the auxin-related transcripts belonged to IAA biosynthesis, indole-3-butyric acid (IBA) metabolism, IAA conjugate metabolism, auxin transport, auxin-responsive protein/indoleacetic acid-induced protein (Aux/IAA), auxin response factor (ARF), small auxin-up RNA (SAUR), Aux/IAA degradation, and other auxin-related proteins, which allow an intricate system of auxin utilization to achieve multiple purposes in SE. Quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) was performed on selected genes with different expression patterns and functional assignments were made to demonstrate the utility of RNA-Seq for gene expression profiles during cotton SE.
We report here the first comprehensive analysis of transcriptome dynamics that may serve as a gene expression profile blueprint in cotton SE. Our main goal was to adapt the RNA-Seq technology to this notable development process and to analyse the gene expression profile. Complex auxin signalling pathway and transcription regulation were highlighted. Together with biochemical and histological approaches, this study provides comprehensive gene expression data sets for cotton SE that serve as an important platform resource for further functional studies in plant embryogenesis.
Keywords: Auxin signalling pathway, Cotton, RNA-seq, Somatic embryogenesis, Transcription profile, Transcription regulation