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1.  cDNA-AFLP analysis reveals differential gene expression in compatible interaction of wheat challenged with Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:289.
Background
Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici is a fungal pathogen causing stripe rust, one of the most important wheat diseases worldwide. The fungus is strictly biotrophic and thus, completely dependent on living host cells for its reproduction, which makes it difficult to study genes of the pathogen. In spite of its economic importance, little is known about the molecular basis of compatible interaction between the pathogen and wheat host. In this study, we identified wheat and P. striiformis genes associated with the infection process by conducting a large-scale transcriptomic analysis using cDNA-AFLP.
Results
Of the total 54,912 transcript derived fragments (TDFs) obtained using cDNA-AFLP with 64 primer pairs, 2,306 (4.2%) displayed altered expression patterns after inoculation, of which 966 showed up-regulated and 1,340 down-regulated. 186 TDFs produced reliable sequences after sequencing of 208 TDFs selected, of which 74 (40%) had known functions through BLAST searching the GenBank database. Majority of the latter group had predicted gene products involved in energy (13%), signal transduction (5.4%), disease/defence (5.9%) and metabolism (5% of the sequenced TDFs). BLAST searching of the wheat stem rust fungus genome database identified 18 TDFs possibly from the stripe rust pathogen, of which 9 were validated of the pathogen origin using PCR-based assays followed by sequencing confirmation. Of the 186 reliable TDFs, 29 homologous to genes known to play a role in disease/defense, signal transduction or uncharacterized genes were further selected for validation of cDNA-AFLP expression patterns using qRT-PCR analyses. Results confirmed the altered expression patterns of 28 (96.5%) genes revealed by the cDNA-AFLP technique.
Conclusion
The results show that cDNA-AFLP is a reliable technique for studying expression patterns of genes involved in the wheat-stripe rust interactions. Genes involved in compatible interactions between wheat and the stripe rust pathogen were identified and their expression patterns were determined. The present study should be helpful in elucidating the molecular basis of the infection process, and identifying genes that can be targeted for inhibiting the growth and reproduction of the pathogen. Moreover, this study can also be used to elucidate the defence responses of the genes that were of plant origin.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-10-289
PMCID: PMC2717123  PMID: 19566949
2.  Profiling and Quantifying Differential Gene Transcription Provide Insights into Ganoderic Acid Biosynthesis in Ganoderma lucidum in Response to Methyl Jasmonate 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65027.
Ganoderma lucidum is a mushroom with traditional medicinal properties that has been widely used in China and other countries in Eastern Asia. Ganoderic acids (GA) produced by G. lucidum exhibit important pharmacological activities. Previous studies have demonstrated that methyl jasmonate (MeJA) is a potent inducer of GA biosynthesis and the expression of genes involved in the GA biosynthesis pathway in G. lucidum. To further explore the mechanism of GA biosynthesis, cDNA-Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism (cDNA-AFLP) was used to identify genes that are differentially expressed in response to MeJA. Using 64 primer combinations, over 3910 transcriptionally derived fragments (TDFs) were obtained. Reliable sequence data were obtained for 390 of 458 selected TDFs. Ninety of these TDFs were annotated with known functions through BLASTX searching the GenBank database, and 12 annotated TDFs were assigned into secondary metabolic pathways by searching the KEGGPATHWAY database. Twenty-five TDFs were selected for qRT-PCR analysis to confirm the expression patterns observed with cDNA-AFLP. The qRT-PCR results were consistent with the altered patterns of gene expression revealed by the cDNA-AFLP technique. Additionally, the transcript levels of 10 genes were measured at the mycelium, primordia, and fruiting body developmental stages of G. lucidum. The greatest expression levels were reached during primordia for all of the genes except cytochrome b2 reached its highest expression level in the mycelium stage. This study not only identifies new candidate genes involved in the regulation of GA biosynthesis but also provides further insight into MeJA-induced gene expression and secondary metabolic response in G. lucidum.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065027
PMCID: PMC3676390  PMID: 23762280
3.  Identification of Upregulated Genes under Cold Stress in Cold-Tolerant Chickpea Using the cDNA-AFLP Approach 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e52757.
Low temperature injury is one of the most significant causes of crop damage worldwide. Cold acclimatization processes improve the freezing tolerance of plants. To identify genes of potential importance for acclimatzation to the cold and to elucidate the pathways that regulate this process, global transcriptome expression of the chickpea (Cicer arietinum L), a species of legume, was analyzed using the cDNA-AFLP technique. In total, we generated 4800 transcript-derived fragments (TDFs) using cDNA-AFLP in conjunction with 256 primer combinations. We only considered those cDNA fragments that seemed to be up-regulated during cold acclimatization. Of these, 102 TDFs with differential expression patterns were excised from gels and re-amplified by PCR. Fifty-four fragments were then cloned and sequenced. BLAST search of the GenBank non-redundant (nr) sequence database demonstrated that 77 percent of the TDFs belonged to known sequences with putative functions related to metabolism (31), transport (10), signal transduction pathways (15) and transcription factors (21). The last group of expressed transcripts showed homology to genes of unknown function (22). To further analyze and validate our cDNA-AFLP experiments, the expression of 9 TDFs during cold acclimatzatiion was confirmed using real time RT-PCR. The results of this research show that cDNA-AFLP is a powerful technique for investigating the expression pattern of chickpea genes under low-temperature stress. Moreover, our findings will help both to elucidate the molecular basis of low-temperature effects on the chickpea genome and to identify those genes that could increase the cold tolerance of the chickpea plant.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052757
PMCID: PMC3544839  PMID: 23341906
4.  Differential gene expression in incompatible interaction between wheat and stripe rust fungus revealed by cDNA-AFLP and comparison to compatible interaction 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:9.
Background
Stripe rust of wheat, caused by Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici (Pst), is one of the most important diseases of wheat worldwide. Due to special features of hexaploid wheat with large and complex genome and difficulties for transformation, and of Pst without sexual reproduction and hard to culture on media, the use of most genetic and molecular techniques in studying genes involved in the wheat-Pst interactions has been largely limited. The objective of this study was to identify transcriptionally regulated genes during an incompatible interaction between wheat and Pst using cDNA-AFLP technique
Results
A total of 52,992 transcript derived fragments (TDFs) were generated with 64 primer pairs and 2,437 (4.6%) of them displayed altered expression patterns after inoculation with 1,787 up-regulated and 650 down-regulated. We obtained reliable sequences (>100 bp) for 255 selected TDFs, of which 113 (44.3%) had putative functions identified. A large group (17.6%) of these genes shared high homology with genes involved in metabolism and photosynthesis; 13.8% to genes with functions related to disease defense and signal transduction; and those in the remaining groups (12.9%) to genes involved in transcription, transport processes, protein metabolism, and cell structure, respectively. Through comparing TDFs identified in the present study for incompatible interaction and those identified in the previous study for compatible interactions, 161 TDFs were shared by both interactions, 94 were expressed specifically in the incompatible interaction, of which the specificity of 43 selected transcripts were determined using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). Based on the analyses of homology to genes known to play a role in defense, signal transduction and protein metabolism, 20 TDFs were chosen and their expression patterns revealed by the cDNA-AFLP technique were confirmed using the qRT-PCR analysis.
Conclusion
We uncovered a number of new candidate genes possibly involved in the interactions of wheat and Pst, of which 11 TDFs expressed specifically in the incompatible interaction. Resistance to stripe rust in wheat cv. Suwon11 is executed after penetration has occurred. Moreover, we also found that plant responses in compatible and incompatible interactions are qualitatively similar but quantitatively different soon after stripe rust fungus infection.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-10-9
PMCID: PMC2817678  PMID: 20067621
5.  GenEST, a powerful bidirectional link between cDNA sequence data and gene expression profiles generated by cDNA-AFLP 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(7):1616-1622.
The release of vast quantities of DNA sequence data by large-scale genome and expressed sequence tag (EST) projects underlines the necessity for the development of efficient and inexpensive ways to link sequence databases with temporal and spatial expression profiles. Here we demonstrate the power of linking cDNA sequence data (including EST sequences) with transcript profiles revealed by cDNA-AFLP, a highly reproducible differential display method based on restriction enzyme digests and selective amplification under high stringency conditions. We have developed a computer program (GenEST) that predicts the sizes of virtual transcript-derived fragments (TDFs) of in silico-digested cDNA sequences retrieved from databases. The vast majority of the resulting virtual TDFs could be traced back among the thousands of TDFs displayed on cDNA-AFLP gels. Sequencing of the corresponding bands excised from cDNA-AFLP gels revealed no inconsistencies. As a consequence, cDNA sequence databases can be screened very efficiently to identify genes with relevant expression profiles. The other way round, it is possible to switch from cDNA-AFLP gels to sequences in the databases. Using the restriction enzyme recognition sites, the primer extensions and the estimated TDF size as identifiers, the DNA sequence(s) corresponding to a TDF with an interesting expression pattern can be identified. In this paper we show examples in both directions by analyzing the plant parasitic nematode Globodera rostochiensis. Various novel pathogenicity factors were identified by combining ESTs from the infective stage juveniles with expression profiles of ∼4000 genes in five developmental stages produced by cDNA-AFLP.
PMCID: PMC31277  PMID: 11266565
6.  Differential Gene Expression in Response to Papaya ringspot virus Infection in Cucumis metuliferus Using cDNA- Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68749.
A better understanding of virus resistance mechanisms can offer more effective strategies to control virus diseases. Papaya ringspot virus (PRSV), Potyviridae, causes severe economical losses in papaya and cucurbit production worldwide. However, no resistance gene against PRSV has been identified to date. This study aimed to identify candidate PRSV resistance genes using cDNA-AFLP analysis and offered an open architecture and transcriptomic method to study those transcripts differentially expressed after virus inoculation. The whole genome expression profile of Cucumis metuliferus inoculated with PRSV was generated using cDNA-amplified fragment length polymorphism (cDNA-AFLP) method. Transcript derived fragments (TDFs) identified from the resistant line PI 292190 may represent genes involved in the mechanism of PRSV resistance. C. metuliferus susceptible Acc. 2459 and resistant PI 292190 lines were inoculated with PRSV and subsequently total RNA was isolated for cDNA-AFLP analysis. More than 400 TDFs were expressed specifically in resistant line PI 292190. A total of 116 TDFs were cloned and their expression patterns and putative functions in the PRSV-resistance mechanism were further characterized. Subsequently, 28 out of 116 candidates which showed two-fold higher expression levels in resistant PI 292190 than those in susceptible Acc. 2459 after virus inoculation were selected from the reverse northern blot and bioinformatic analysis. Furthermore, the time point expression profiles of these candidates by northern blot analysis suggested that they might play roles in resistance against PRSV and could potentially provide valuable information for controlling PRSV disease in the future.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068749
PMCID: PMC3706314  PMID: 23874746
7.  Metabolic Profiles and cDNA-AFLP Analysis of Salvia miltiorrhiza and Salvia castanea Diel f. tomentosa Stib 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29678.
Plants of the genus Salvia produce various types of phenolic compounds and tanshinones which are effective for treatment of coronary heart disease. Salvia miltiorrhiza and S. castanea Diels f. tomentosa Stib are two important members of the genus. In this study, metabolic profiles and cDNA-AFLP analysis of four samples were employed to identify novel genes potentially involved in phenolic compounds and tanshinones biosynthesis, including the red roots from the two species and two tanshinone-free roots from S. miltiorrhiza. The results showed that the red roots of S. castanea Diels f. tomentosa Stib produced high contents of rosmarinic acid (21.77 mg/g) and tanshinone IIA (12.60 mg/g), but low content of salvianolic acid B (1.45 mg/g). The red roots of S. miltiorrhiza produced high content of salvianolic acid B (18.69 mg/g), while tanshinones accumulation in this sample was much less than that in S. castanea Diels f. tomentosa Stib. Tanshinones were not detected in the two tanshinone-free samples, which produced high contents of phenolic compounds. A cDNA-AFLP analysis with 128 primer pairs revealed that 2300 transcript derived fragments (TDFs) were differentially expressed among the four samples. About 323 TDFs were sequenced, of which 78 TDFs were annotated with known functions through BLASTX searching the Genbank database and 14 annotated TDFs were assigned into secondary metabolic pathways through searching the KEGGPATHWAY database. The quantitative real-time PCR analysis indicated that the expression of 9 TDFs was positively correlated with accumulation of phenolic compounds and tanshinones. These TDFs additionally showed coordinated transcriptional response with 6 previously-identified genes involved in biosynthesis of tanshinones and phenolic compounds in S. miltiorrhiza hairy roots treated with yeast extract. The sequence data in the present work not only provided us candidate genes involved in phenolic compounds and tanshinones biosynthesis but also gave us further insight into secondary metabolism in Salvia.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029678
PMCID: PMC3268763  PMID: 22303439
8.  Comparative Analysis of Latex Transcriptome Reveals Putative Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Super Productivity of Hevea brasiliensis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75307.
Increasing demand for natural rubber prompts studies into the mechanisms governing the productivity of rubber tree (Heveabrasiliensis). It is very interesting to notice that a rubber tree of clone PR107 in Yunnan, China is reported to yield more than 20 times higher than the average rubber tree. This super-high-yielding (SHY) rubber tree (designated as SY107), produced 4.12 kg of latex (cytoplasm of rubber producing laticifers, containing about 30% of rubber) per tapping, more than 7-fold higher than that of the control. This rubber tree is therefore a good material to study how the rubber production is regulated at a molecular aspect. A comprehensive cDNA-AFLP transcript profiling was performed on the latex of SY107 and its average counterparts by using the 384 selective primer pairs for two restriction enzyme combinations (ApoI/MseI and TaqI/MseI). A total of 746 differentially expressed (DE) transcript-derived fragments (TDFs) were identified, of which the expression patterns of 453 TDFs were further confirmed by RT-PCR. These RT-PCR confirmed TDFs represented 352 non-redundant genes, of which 215 had known or partially known functions and were grouped into 10 functional categories. The top three largest categories were transcription and protein synthesis (representing 24.7% of the total genes), defense and stress (15.3%), and primary and secondary metabolism (14.0%). Detailed analysis of the DE-genes suggests notable characteristics of SHY phenotype in improved sucrose loading capability, rubber biosynthesis-preferred sugar utilization, enhanced general metabolism and timely stress alleviation. However, the SHY phenotype has little correlation with rubber-biosynthesis pathway genes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075307
PMCID: PMC3774812  PMID: 24066172
9.  Analysis of 4,664 high-quality sequence-finished poplar full-length cDNA clones and their utility for the discovery of genes responding to insect feeding 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:57.
Background
The genus Populus includes poplars, aspens and cottonwoods, which will be collectively referred to as poplars hereafter unless otherwise specified. Poplars are the dominant tree species in many forest ecosystems in the Northern Hemisphere and are of substantial economic value in plantation forestry. Poplar has been established as a model system for genomics studies of growth, development, and adaptation of woody perennial plants including secondary xylem formation, dormancy, adaptation to local environments, and biotic interactions.
Results
As part of the poplar genome sequencing project and the development of genomic resources for poplar, we have generated a full-length (FL)-cDNA collection using the biotinylated CAP trapper method. We constructed four FLcDNA libraries using RNA from xylem, phloem and cambium, and green shoot tips and leaves from the P. trichocarpa Nisqually-1 genotype, as well as insect-attacked leaves of the P. trichocarpa × P. deltoides hybrid. Following careful selection of candidate cDNA clones, we used a combined strategy of paired end reads and primer walking to generate a set of 4,664 high-accuracy, sequence-verified FLcDNAs, which clustered into 3,990 putative unique genes. Mapping FLcDNAs to the poplar genome sequence combined with BLAST comparisons to previously predicted protein coding sequences in the poplar genome identified 39 FLcDNAs that likely localize to gaps in the current genome sequence assembly. Another 173 FLcDNAs mapped to the genome sequence but were not included among the previously predicted genes in the poplar genome. Comparative sequence analysis against Arabidopsis thaliana and other species in the non-redundant database of GenBank revealed that 11.5% of the poplar FLcDNAs display no significant sequence similarity to other plant proteins. By mapping the poplar FLcDNAs against transcriptome data previously obtained with a 15.5 K cDNA microarray, we identified 153 FLcDNA clones for genes that were differentially expressed in poplar leaves attacked by forest tent caterpillars.
Conclusion
This study has generated a high-quality FLcDNA resource for poplar and the third largest FLcDNA collection published to date for any plant species. We successfully used the FLcDNA sequences to reassess gene prediction in the poplar genome sequence, perform comparative sequence annotation, and identify differentially expressed transcripts associated with defense against insects. The FLcDNA sequences will be essential to the ongoing curation and annotation of the poplar genome, in particular for targeting gaps in the current genome assembly and further improvement of gene predictions. The physical FLcDNA clones will serve as useful reagents for functional genomics research in areas such as analysis of gene functions in defense against insects and perennial growth. Sequences from this study have been deposited in NCBI GenBank under the accession numbers EF144175 to EF148838.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-57
PMCID: PMC2270264  PMID: 18230180
10.  Distinct colonization patterns and cDNA-AFLP transcriptome profiles in compatible and incompatible interactions between melon and different races of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. melonis 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:122.
Background
Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. melonis Snyd. & Hans. (FOM) causes Fusarium wilt, the most important infectious disease of melon (Cucumis melo L.). The four known races of this pathogen can be distinguished only by infection on appropriate cultivars. No molecular tools are available that can discriminate among the races, and the molecular basis of compatibility and disease progression are poorly understood. Resistance to races 1 and 2 is controlled by a single dominant gene, whereas only partial polygenic resistance to race 1,2 has been described. We carried out a large-scale cDNA-AFLP analysis to identify host genes potentially related to resistance and susceptibility as well as fungal genes associated with the infection process. At the same time, a systematic reisolation procedure on infected stems allowed us to monitor fungal colonization in compatible and incompatible host-pathogen combinations.
Results
Melon plants (cv. Charentais Fom-2), which are susceptible to race 1,2 and resistant to race 1, were artificially infected with a race 1 strain of FOM or one of two race 1,2 w strains. Host colonization of stems was assessed at 1, 2, 4, 8, 14, 16, 18 and 21 days post inoculation (dpi), and the fungus was reisolated from infected plants. Markedly different colonization patterns were observed in compatible and incompatible host-pathogen combinations. Five time points from the symptomless early stage (2 dpi) to obvious wilting symptoms (21 dpi) were considered for cDNA-AFLP analysis. After successful sequencing of 627 transcript-derived fragments (TDFs) differentially expressed in infected plants, homology searching retrieved 305 melon transcripts, 195 FOM transcripts expressed in planta and 127 orphan TDFs. RNA samples from FOM colonies of the three strains grown in vitro were also included in the analysis to facilitate the detection of in planta-specific transcripts and to identify TDFs differentially expressed among races/strains.
Conclusion
Our data suggest that resistance against FOM in melon involves only limited transcriptional changes, and that wilting symptoms could derive, at least partially, from an active plant response.
We discuss the pathogen-derived transcripts expressed in planta during the infection process and potentially related to virulence functions, as well as transcripts that are differentially expressed between the two FOM races grown in vitro. These transcripts provide candidate sequences that can be further tested for their ability to distinguish between races.
Sequence data from this article have been deposited in GenBank, Accession Numbers: HO867279-HO867981.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-122
PMCID: PMC3048547  PMID: 21338485
11.  Differential Gene Expression in Sugarcane in Response to Challenge by Fungal Pathogen Ustilago scitaminea Revealed by cDNA-AFLP 
Differential gene expression in sugarcane during sugarcane-Ustilago scitaminea interaction was conducted in a smut-resistant genotype. Using cDNA-AFLP along with silver staining, a total of 136 transcript-derived fragments (TDFs) were found to be differentially expressed in response to challenge by U. scitaminea. Forty TDFs, 34 newly induced plus six with obvious upregulated expression after infection, were sequenced and validated by RT-PCR analysis. These results demonstrated that the expression of 37 out of these TDFs in RT-PCR analysis was consistent with that in cDNA-AFLP analysis. Based on BlastX in NCBI, 28 TDFs were assumed to function in sugarcane under U. scitaminea stress. Analysis of expression profile of three TDFs revealed that they responded differently after infection with U. scitaminea, and the transcription was significantly enhanced. The response of two TDFs, SUC06 and SUC09, occurred before that of SUC10. This study enriches our knowledge of the molecular basis for sugarcane response to U. scitaminea infection.
doi:10.1155/2011/160934
PMCID: PMC3142712  PMID: 21792273
12.  Differential transcript profiling through cDNA-AFLP showed complexity of rutin biosynthesis and accumulation in seeds of a nutraceutical food crop (Fagopyrum spp.) 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:231.
Background
Buckwheat, consisting of two cultivated species Fagopyrum tataricum and F. esculentum, is the richest source of flavonoid rutin. Vegetative tissues of both the Fagopyrum species contain almost similar amount of rutin; however, rutin content in seed of F. tataricum are ~50 folds of that in seed of F. esculentum. In order to understand the molecular basis of high rutin content in F. tataricum, differential transcript profiling through cDNA-AFLP has been utilized to decipher what genetic factors in addition to flavonoid structural genes contribute to high rutin content of F. tataricum compared to F. esculentum.
Results
Differential transcript profiling through cDNA-AFLP in seed maturing stages (inflorescence to seed maturation) with 32 primer combinations generated total of 509 transcript fragments (TDFs). 167 TDFs were then eluted, cloned and sequenced from F. tataricum and F. esculentum. Categorization of TDFs on the basis of their presence/absence (qualitative variation) or differences in the amount of expression (quantitative variation) between both the Fagopyrum species showed that majority of variants are quantitative (64%). The TDFs represented genes controlling different biological processes such as basic and secondary metabolism (33%), regulation (18%), signal transduction (14%), transportation (13%), cellular organization (10%), and photosynthesis & energy (4%). Most of the TDFs except belonging to cellular metabolism showed relatively higher transcript abundance in F. tataricum over F. esculentum. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis of nine TDFs representing genes involved in regulation, metabolism, signaling and transport of secondary metabolites showed that all the tested nine TDFs (Ubiquitin protein ligase, ABC transporter, sugar transporter) except MYB 118 showed significantly higher expression in early seed formation stage (S7) of F. tataricum compared to F. esculentum. qRT-PCR results were found to be consistent with the cDNA-AFLP results.
Conclusions
The present study concludes that in addition to structural genes, other classes of genes such as regulators, modifiers and transporters are also important in biosynthesis and accumulation of flavonoid content in plants. cDNA-AFLP technology was successfully utilized to capture genes that are contributing to differences in rutin content in seed maturing stages of Fagopyrum species. Increased transcript abundance of TDFs during transition from flowers to seed maturation suggests their involvement not only in the higher rutin content of F. tataricum over F. esculentum but also in nutritional superiority of the former.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-231
PMCID: PMC3441755  PMID: 22686486
Rutin; cDNA-AFLP; Transcript derived fragments; qRT-PCR
13.  Comparative transcriptomics of drought responses in Populus: a meta-analysis of genome-wide expression profiling in mature leaves and root apices across two genotypes 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:630.
Background
Comparative genomics has emerged as a promising means of unravelling the molecular networks underlying complex traits such as drought tolerance. Here we assess the genotype-dependent component of the drought-induced transcriptome response in two poplar genotypes differing in drought tolerance. Drought-induced responses were analysed in leaves and root apices and were compared with available transcriptome data from other Populus species.
Results
Using a multi-species designed microarray, a genomic DNA-based selection of probesets provided an unambiguous between-genotype comparison. Analyses of functional group enrichment enabled the extraction of processes physiologically relevant to drought response. The drought-driven changes in gene expression occurring in root apices were consistent across treatments and genotypes. For mature leaves, the transcriptome response varied weakly but in accordance with the duration of water deficit. A differential clustering algorithm revealed similar and divergent gene co-expression patterns among the two genotypes. Since moderate stress levels induced similar physiological responses in both genotypes, the genotype-dependent transcriptional responses could be considered as intrinsic divergences in genome functioning. Our meta-analysis detected several candidate genes and processes that are differentially regulated in root and leaf, potentially under developmental control, and preferentially involved in early and long-term responses to drought.
Conclusions
In poplar, the well-known drought-induced activation of sensing and signalling cascades was specific to the early response in leaves but was found to be general in root apices. Comparing our results to what is known in arabidopsis, we found that transcriptional remodelling included signalling and a response to energy deficit in roots in parallel with transcriptional indices of hampered assimilation in leaves, particularly in the drought-sensitive poplar genotype.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-630
PMCID: PMC3091765  PMID: 21073700
14.  The Populus Superoxide Dismutase Gene Family and Its Responses to Drought Stress in Transgenic Poplar Overexpressing a Pine Cytosolic Glutamine Synthetase (GS1a) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56421.
Background
Glutamine synthetase (GS) plays a central role in plant nitrogen assimilation, a process intimately linked to soil water availability. We previously showed that hybrid poplar (Populus tremula X alba, INRA 717-1B4) expressing ectopically a pine cytosolic glutamine synthetase gene (GS1a) display enhanced tolerance to drought. Preliminary transcriptome profiling revealed that during drought, members of the superoxide dismutase (SOD) family were reciprocally regulated in GS poplar when compared with the wild-type control, in all tissues examined. SOD was the only gene family found to exhibit such patterns.
Results
In silico analysis of the Populus genome identified 12 SOD genes and two genes encoding copper chaperones for SOD (CCSs). The poplar SODs form three phylogenetic clusters in accordance with their distinct metal co-factor requirements and gene structure. Nearly all poplar SODs and CCSs are present in duplicate derived from whole genome duplication, in sharp contrast to their predominantly single-copy Arabidopsis orthologs. Drought stress triggered plant-wide down-regulation of the plastidic copper SODs (CSDs), with concomitant up-regulation of plastidic iron SODs (FSDs) in GS poplar relative to the wild type; this was confirmed at the activity level. We also found evidence for coordinated down-regulation of other copper proteins, including plastidic CCSs and polyphenol oxidases, in GS poplar under drought conditions.
Conclusions
Both gene duplication and expression divergence have contributed to the expansion and transcriptional diversity of the Populus SOD/CCS families. Coordinated down-regulation of major copper proteins in drought-tolerant GS poplars supports the copper cofactor economy model where copper supply is preferentially allocated for plastocyanins to sustain photosynthesis during drought. Our results also extend previous findings on the compensatory regulation between chloroplastic CSDs and FSDs, and suggest that this copper-mediated mechanism represents a common response to oxidative stress and other genetic manipulations, as in GS poplars, that affect photosynthesis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056421
PMCID: PMC3579828  PMID: 23451045
15.  Genome-wide transcriptional analysis of two soybean genotypes under dehydration and rehydration conditions 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:687.
Background
Soybean is an important crop that provides valuable proteins and oils for human use. Because soybean growth and development is extremely sensitive to water deficit, quality and crop yields are severely impacted by drought stress. In the face of limited water resources, drought-responsive genes are therefore of interest. Identification and analysis of dehydration- and rehydration-inducible differentially expressed genes (DEGs) would not only aid elucidation of molecular mechanisms of stress response, but also enable improvement of crop stress tolerance via gene transfer. Using Digital Gene Expression Tag profiling (DGE), a new technique based on Illumina sequencing, we analyzed expression profiles between two soybean genotypes to identify drought-responsive genes.
Results
Two soybean genotypes—drought-tolerant Jindou21 and drought-sensitive Zhongdou33—were subjected to dehydration and rehydration conditions. For analysis of DEGs under dehydration conditions, 20 cDNA libraries were generated from roots and leaves at two different time points under well-watered and dehydration conditions. We also generated eight libraries for analysis under rehydration conditions. Sequencing of the 28 libraries produced 25,000–33,000 unambiguous tags, which were mapped to reference sequences for annotation of expressed genes. Many genes exhibited significant expression differences among the libraries. DEGs in the drought-tolerant genotype were identified by comparison of DEGs among treatments and genotypes. In Jindou21, 518 and 614 genes were differentially expressed under dehydration in leaves and roots, respectively, with 24 identified both in leaves and roots. The main functional categories enriched in these DEGs were metabolic process, response to stresses, plant hormone signal transduction, protein processing, and plant-pathogen interaction pathway; the associated genes primarily encoded transcription factors, protein kinases, and other regulatory proteins. The seven most significantly expressed (|log2 ratio| ≥ 8) genes— Glyma15g03920, Glyma05g02470, Glyma15g15010, Glyma05g09070, Glyma06g35630, Glyma08g12590, and Glyma11g16000—are more likely to determine drought stress tolerance. The expression patterns of eight randomly-selected genes were confirmed by quantitative RT-PCR; the results of QRT-PCR analysis agreed with transcriptional profile data for 96 out of 128 (75%) data points.
Conclusions
Many soybean genes were differentially expressed between drought-tolerant and drought-sensitive genotypes. Based on GO functional annotation and pathway enrichment analysis, some of these genes encoded transcription factors, protein kinases, and other regulatory proteins. The seven most significant DEGs are candidates for improving soybean drought tolerance. These findings will be helpful for analysis and elucidation of molecular mechanisms of drought tolerance; they also provide a basis for cultivating new varieties of drought-tolerant soybean.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-687
PMCID: PMC3827939  PMID: 24093224
Soybean; Dehydration; Digital gene expression tag profile; Rehydration; Differentially expressed genes; Quantitative RT-PCR; Transcription factors; Protein kinases; Regulatory proteins
16.  Gene expression profiling by cDNA-AFLP reveals potential candidate genes for partial resistance of ‘Président Roulin’ against Venturia inaequalis 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):1043.
Background
Scab, caused by the fungus Venturia inaequalis, is one of the most important diseases of cultivated apple. While a few scab resistance genes (R genes) governing qualitative resistance have been isolated and characterized, the biological roles of genes governing quantitative resistance, supposed to be more durable, are still unknown. This study aims to investigate the molecular mechanisms involved in the partial resistance of the old Belgian apple cultivar ‘Président Roulin’ against V. inaequalis.
Results
A global gene expression analysis was conducted in ‘Président Roulin’ (partially resistant) and in ‘Gala’ (susceptible) challenged by V. inaequalis by using the cDNA-AFLP method (cDNA-Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism). Transcriptome analysis revealed significant modulation (up- or down-regulation) of 281 out of approximately 20,500 transcript derived fragments (TDFs) in ‘Président Roulin’ 48 hours after inoculation. Sequence annotation revealed similarities to several genes encoding for proteins belonging to the NBS-LRR and LRR-RLK classes of plant R genes and to other defense-related proteins. Differentially expressed genes were sorted into functional categories according to their gene ontology annotation and this expression signature was compared to published apple cDNA libraries by Gene Enrichment Analysis. The first comparison was made with two cDNA libraries from Malus x domestica uninfected leaves, and revealed in both libraries a signature of enhanced expression in ‘Président Roulin’ of genes involved in response to stress and photosynthesis. In the second comparison, the pathogen-responsive TDFs from the partially resistant cultivar were compared to the cDNA library from inoculated leaves of Rvi6 (HcrVf2)-transformed ‘Gala’ lines (complete disease resistance) and revealed both common physiological events, and notably differences in the regulation of defense response, the regulation of hydrolase activity, and response to DNA damage. TDFs were in silico mapped on the ‘Golden Delicious’ apple reference genome and significant co-localizations with major scab R genes, but not with quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for scab resistance nor resistance gene analogues (RGAs) were found.
Conclusions
This study highlights possible candidate genes that may play a role in the partial scab resistance mechanisms of ‘Président Roulin’ and increase our understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in the partial resistance against apple scab.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-1043) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-1043
PMCID: PMC4302150  PMID: 25433532
cDNA-AFLP; Partial resistance; Apple scab; Venturia inaequalis
17.  GOGOT: a method for the identification of differentially expressed fragments from cDNA-AFLP data 
Background
One-dimensional (1-D) electrophoretic data obtained using the cDNA-AFLP method have attracted great interest for the identification of differentially expressed transcript-derived fragments (TDFs). However, high-throughput analysis of the cDNA-AFLP data is currently limited by the need for labor-intensive visual evaluation of multiple electropherograms. We would like to have high-throughput ways of identifying such TDFs.
Results
We describe a method, GOGOT, which automatically detects the differentially expressed TDFs in a set of time-course electropherograms. Analysis by GOGOT is conducted as follows: correction of fragment lengths of TDFs, alignment of identical TDFs across different electropherograms, normalization of peak heights, and identification of differentially expressed TDFs using a special statistic. The output of the analysis is a highly reduced list of differentially expressed TDFs. Visual evaluation confirmed that the peak alignment was performed perfectly for the TDFs by virtue of the correction of peak fragment lengths before alignment in step 1. The validity of the automated ranking of TDFs by the special statistic was confirmed by the visual evaluation of a third party.
Conclusion
GOGOT is useful for the automated detection of differentially expressed TDFs from cDNA-AFLP temporal electrophoretic data. The current algorithm may be applied to other electrophoretic data and temporal microarray data.
doi:10.1186/1748-7188-2-5
PMCID: PMC1904450  PMID: 17535446
18.  Differential Gene Expression for Curvularia eragrostidis Pathogenic Incidence in Crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis) Revealed by cDNA-AFLP Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e75430.
Gene expression profiles of Digitaria sanguinalis infected by Curvularia eragrostidis strain QZ-2000 at two concentrations of conidia and two dew durations were analyzed by cDNA amplified fragment length polymorphisms (cDNA-AFLP). Inoculum strength was more determinant of gene expression than dew duration. A total of 256 primer combinations were used for selective amplification and 1214 transcript-derived fragments (TDFs) were selected for their differential expression. Of these, 518 up-regulated differentially expressed TDFs were identified. Forty-six differential cDNA fragments were chosen to be cloned and 35 of them were successfully cloned and sequenced, of which 25 were homologous to genes of known function according to the GenBank database. Only 6 genes were up-regulated in Curvularia eragrostidis-inoculated D. sanguinalis, with functions involved in signal transduction, energy metabolism, cell growth and development, stress responses, abscisic acid biosynthesis and response. It appears that a few pathways may be important parts of the pathogenic strategy of C. eragrostidis strain QZ-2000 on D. sanguinalis. Our study provides the fundamentals to further study the pathogenic mechanism, screen for optimal C. eragrostidis strains as potential mycoherbicide and apply this product to control D. sanguinalis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075430
PMCID: PMC3792964  PMID: 24116044
19.  cDNA-AFLP analysis of plant and pathogen genes expressed in grapevine infected with Plasmopara viticola 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:142.
Background
The oomycete Plasmopara viticola (Berk. and Curt.) Berl. and de Toni causes downy mildew in grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.). This pathogen is strictly biotrophic, thus completely dependent on living host cells for its survival. The molecular basis of compatibility and disease development in this system is poorly understood. We have carried out a large-scale cDNA-AFLP analysis to identify grapevine and P. viticola genes associated with the infection process.
Results
We carried out cDNA-AFLP analysis on artificially infected leaves of the susceptible cultivar Riesling at the oil spot stage, on water-treated leaves and on a sample of pure sporangia as controls. Selective amplifications with 128 primer combinations allowed the visualization of about 7000 transcript-derived fragments (TDFs) in infected leaves, 1196 of which (17%) were differentially expressed. We sequenced 984 fragments, 804 of which were identified as grapevine transcripts after homology searching, while 96 were homologous to sequences in Phytophthora spp. databases and were attributed to P. viticola. There were 82 orphan TDFs. Many grapevine genes spanning almost all functional categories were downregulated during infection, especially genes involved in photosynthesis. Grapevine genes homologous to known resistance genes also tended to be repressed, as were several resistance gene analogs and carbonic anhydrase (recently implicated in pathogen resistance). In contrast, genes encoding cytoskeletal components, enzymes of the phenylpropanoid and beta-oxidation pathways, and pathogenesis related proteins were primarily upregulated during infection. The majority of P. viticola transcripts expressed in planta showed homology to genes of unknown function or to genomic Phytophthora sequences, but genes related to metabolism, energy production, transport and signal transduction were also identified.
Conclusion
This study provides the first global catalogue of grapevine and P. viticola genes expressed during infection, together with their functional annotations. This will help to elucidate the molecular basis of the infection process and identify genes and chemicals that could help to inhibit the pathogen.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-142
PMCID: PMC2292706  PMID: 18366764
20.  cDNA-AFLP analysis reveals the adaptive responses of citrus to long-term boron-toxicity 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14(1):284.
Background
Boron (B)-toxicity is an important disorder in agricultural regions across the world. Seedlings of ‘Sour pummelo’ (Citrus grandis) and ‘Xuegan’ (Citrus sinensis) were fertigated every other day until drip with 10 μM (control) or 400 μM (B-toxic) H3BO3 in a complete nutrient solution for 15 weeks. The aims of this study were to elucidate the adaptive mechanisms of citrus plants to B-toxicity and to identify B-tolerant genes.
Results
B-toxicity-induced changes in seedlings growth, leaf CO2 assimilation, pigments, total soluble protein, malondialdehyde (MDA) and phosphorus were less pronounced in C. sinensis than in C. grandis. B concentration was higher in B-toxic C. sinensis leaves than in B-toxic C. grandis ones. Here we successfully used cDNA-AFLP to isolate 67 up-regulated and 65 down-regulated transcript-derived fragments (TDFs) from B-toxic C. grandis leaves, whilst only 31 up-regulated and 37 down-regulated TDFs from B-toxic C. sinensis ones, demonstrating that gene expression is less affected in B-toxic C. sinensis leaves than in B-toxic C. grandis ones. These differentially expressed TDFs were related to signal transduction, carbohydrate and energy metabolism, nucleic acid metabolism, protein and amino acid metabolism, lipid metabolism, cell wall and cytoskeleton modification, stress responses and cell transport. The higher B-tolerance of C. sinensis might be related to the findings that B-toxic C. sinensis leaves had higher expression levels of genes involved in photosynthesis, which might contribute to the higher photosyntheis and light utilization and less excess light energy, and in reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenging compared to B-toxic C. grandis leaves, thus preventing them from photo-oxidative damage. In addition, B-toxicity-induced alteration in the expression levels of genes encoding inorganic pyrophosphatase 1, AT4G01850 and methionine synthase differed between the two species, which might play a role in the B-tolerance of C. sinensis.
Conclusions
C. sinensis leaves could tolerate higher level of B than C. grandis ones, thus improving the B-tolerance of C. sinensis plants. Our findings reveal some novel mechanisms on the tolerance of plants to B-toxicity at the gene expression level.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-014-0284-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s12870-014-0284-5
PMCID: PMC4219002  PMID: 25348611
Boron-tolerance; Boron-toxicity; cDNA-AFLP; Citrus grandis; Citrus sinensis; Photosynthesis
21.  Expression and Molecular Evolution of Two DREB1 Genes in Black Poplar (Populus nigra) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e98334.
Environmental stresses such as low temperature, drought, and high salinity significantly affect plant growth and yield. As selective forces, these adverse factors play essential roles in shaping phenotypic variation in plant populations. Black poplar (Populus nigra) is an economically and ecologically important forest tree species with widely distributed populations and is thus suitable for experiments detecting evolutionary footprints left by stress. Here, we performed expression and evolutionary analysis of two duplicated DREB A1-subgroup (DREB1) genes, PnDREB68 and PnDREB69, encoding transcription factors that are involved in stress responses. The two genes showed partially overlapping but distinct expression patterns in response to stresses. These genes were strongly and rapidly induced by cold stress in leaves, stems, and roots. In leaf tissue, dehydration stress induced the expression of PnDREB68 but not PnDREB69. PnDREB69 displayed more rapid responses and longer expression durations than PnDREB68 under salt and ABA stress, respectively. Based on single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis, we found significant population genetic differentiation, with a greater FST value (0.09189) for PnDREB69 than for PnDREB68 (0.07743). Nucleotide diversity analysis revealed a two-fold higher πT for PnDREB68 than for PnDREB69 (0.00563 vs. 0.00243), reflecting strong purifying selection acting on the former. The results suggest that positive selection acted on PnDREB69, as evidenced by neutral testing using Tajima’s D statistic. The distinct selective forces to which each of the genes was subjected may be associated with expression divergence. Linkage disequilibrium (LD) was low for the sequenced region, with a higher level for PnDREB68 than for PnDREB69. Additionally, analysis of the relationship among carbon isotope ratios, SNP classes and gene expression, together with motif and domain analysis, suggested that 14 polymorphisms within the two genes may be candidates for an association study of important traits such as water use efficiency/drought tolerance in black poplar.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0098334
PMCID: PMC4041773  PMID: 24887081
22.  Quantitative RT-PCR analysis of differentially expressed genes in Quercus suber in response to Phytophthora cinnamomi infection 
SpringerPlus  2014;3:613.
cDNA-AFLP methodology was used to gain insight into gene fragments differentially present in the mRNA profiles of Quercus suber roots infected with zoospores of Phytophthora cinnamomi at different post challenge time points. Fifty-three transcript-derived fragments (TDFs) were identified and sequenced. Six candidate genes were selected based on their expression patterns and homology to genes known to play a role in defence. They encode a cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase2 (QsCAD2), a protein disulphide isomerase (QsPDI), a CC-NBS-LRR resistance protein (QsRPc), a thaumatin-like protein (QsTLP), a chitinase (QsCHI) and a 1,3-β-glucanase (QsGlu). Evaluation of the expression of these genes by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) revealed that transcript levels of QsRPc, QsCHI, QsCAD2 and QsPDI increased during the first 24 h post-inoculation, while those of thaumatin-like protein decreased. No differential expression was observed for 1,3-β-glucanase (QsGlu).
Four candidate reference genes, polymerase II (QsRPII), eukaryotic translation initiation factor 5A (QsEIF-5A), β-tubulin (QsTUB) and a medium subunit family protein of clathrin adaptor complexes (QsCACs) were assessed to determine the most stable internal references for qRT-PCR normalization in the Phytophthora-Q. suber pathosystem in root tissues. Those found to be more stable, QsRPII and QsCACs, were used as internal reference in the present work.
Knowledge on the Quercus defence mechanisms against biotic stress is scarce. This study provides an insight into the gene profiling of a few important genes of Q. suber in response to P. cinnamomi infection contributing to the knowledge of the molecular interactions involving Quercus and root pathogens that can be useful in the future to understand the mechanisms underlying oak resistance to soil-borne oomycetes.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/2193-1801-3-613) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/2193-1801-3-613
PMCID: PMC4221558  PMID: 25392784
Cork oak; Biotic stress; cDNA-AFLP; qRT-PCR; Defence response; Reference genes
23.  Gene family structure, expression and functional analysis of HD-Zip III genes in angiosperm and gymnosperm forest trees 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:273.
Background
Class III Homeodomain Leucine Zipper (HD-Zip III) proteins have been implicated in the regulation of cambium identity, as well as primary and secondary vascular differentiation and patterning in herbaceous plants. They have been proposed to regulate wood formation but relatively little evidence is available to validate such a role. We characterised and compared HD-Zip III gene family in an angiosperm tree, Populus spp. (poplar), and the gymnosperm Picea glauca (white spruce), representing two highly evolutionarily divergent groups.
Results
Full-length cDNA sequences were isolated from poplar and white spruce. Phylogenetic reconstruction indicated that some of the gymnosperm sequences were derived from lineages that diverged earlier than angiosperm sequences, and seem to have been lost in angiosperm lineages. Transcript accumulation profiles were assessed by RT-qPCR on tissue panels from both species and in poplar trees in response to an inhibitor of polar auxin transport. The overall transcript profiles HD-Zip III complexes in white spruce and poplar exhibited substantial differences, reflecting their evolutionary history. Furthermore, two poplar sequences homologous to HD-Zip III genes involved in xylem development in Arabidopsis and Zinnia were over-expressed in poplar plants. PtaHB1 over-expression produced noticeable effects on petiole and primary shoot fibre development, suggesting that PtaHB1 is involved in primary xylem development. We also obtained evidence indicating that expression of PtaHB1 affected the transcriptome by altering the accumulation of 48 distinct transcripts, many of which are predicted to be involved in growth and cell wall synthesis. Most of them were down-regulated, as was the case for several of the poplar HD-Zip III sequences. No visible physiological effect of over-expression was observed on PtaHB7 transgenic trees, suggesting that PtaHB1 and PtaHB7 likely have distinct roles in tree development, which is in agreement with the functions that have been assigned to close homologs in herbaceous plants.
Conclusions
This study provides an overview of HD-zip III genes related to woody plant development and identifies sequences putatively involved in secondary vascular growth in angiosperms and in gymnosperms. These gene sequences are candidate regulators of wood formation and could be a source of molecular markers for tree breeding related to wood properties.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-10-273
PMCID: PMC3017839  PMID: 21143995
24.  Differential gene expression of related wheat lines with contrasting levels of head blight resistance after Fusarium graminearum inoculation 
Fusarium head blight (FHB) is a devastating disease of wheat. Molecular mapping led to the identification of two major FHB resistance QTL, Fhb1 and Qfhs.ifa-5A. The actual function of these resistance genes is still unknown. The resistant line CM82036, the susceptible line Remus and two sister lines from the cross CM82036/Remus were analysed for gene expression. The sister lines show contrasting levels of FHB resistance due to the presence or absence of resistance alleles at Fhb1 and Qfhs.ifa-5A. At anthesis plants were challenged by Fusarium graminearum or water under controlled conditions. At six-time points after inoculation (0–72 h) gene expression of specific wheat floral tissue was analysed by cDNA-AFLPs in two biological replications. Altered expression patterns after F. graminearum inoculation were observed for 164 transcript-derived fragments (TDFs), corresponding to 3.4% of the analysed fragments. Fourteen TDFs, 0.28% of the total analysed fragments, displayed differential expression after fungal attack depending on the genotype; five of these TDFs were differentially expressed between the sister lines and are possibly associated with the possession of Fhb1 and Qfhs-ifa-5A and the FHB resistance level of the genotypes. Sequencing and annotation of these gene tags revealed homologies to a UDP-glucosyltransferase, phenylalanine ammonia-lyase, Dna-J like protein, pathogenesis-related family protein and to one gene with unknown function providing initial clues for guiding further functional studies on the resistance reaction of wheat against FHB. This work is the first report on differential gene expression between related, resistant and susceptible, wheat lines after F. graminearum attack.
doi:10.1007/s00122-008-0935-8
PMCID: PMC3194064  PMID: 19082576
25.  Genome-Wide Analysis of ZmDREB Genes and Their Association with Natural Variation in Drought Tolerance at Seedling Stage of Zea mays L 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(9):e1003790.
The worldwide production of maize (Zea mays L.) is frequently impacted by water scarcity and as a result, increased drought tolerance is a priority target in maize breeding programs. While DREB transcription factors have been demonstrated to play a central role in desiccation tolerance, whether or not natural sequence variations in these genes are associated with the phenotypic variability of this trait is largely unknown. In the present study, eighteen ZmDREB genes present in the maize B73 genome were cloned and systematically analyzed to determine their phylogenetic relationship, synteny with rice, maize and sorghum genomes; pattern of drought-responsive gene expression, and protein transactivation activity. Importantly, the association between the nucleic acid variation of each ZmDREB gene with drought tolerance was evaluated using a diverse population of maize consisting of 368 varieties from tropical and temperate regions. A significant association between the genetic variation of ZmDREB2.7 and drought tolerance at seedling stage was identified. Further analysis found that the DNA polymorphisms in the promoter region of ZmDREB2.7, but not the protein coding region itself, was associated with different levels of drought tolerance among maize varieties, likely due to distinct patterns of gene expression in response to drought stress. In vitro, protein-DNA binding assay demonstrated that ZmDREB2.7 protein could specifically interact with the target DNA sequences. The transgenic Arabidopsis overexpressing ZmDREB2.7 displayed enhanced tolerance to drought stress. Moreover, a favorable allele of ZmDREB2.7, identified in the drought-tolerant maize varieties, was effective in imparting plant tolerance to drought stress. Based upon these findings, we conclude that natural variation in the promoter of ZmDREB2.7 contributes to maize drought tolerance, and that the gene and its favorable allele may be an important genetic resource for the genetic improvement of drought tolerance in maize.
Author Summary
Water scarcity is one of the most severe threats to maize production worldwide. Although research has demonstrated that DREB-type transcription factors play important roles in plant water stress response, whether the specific genetic variants in DREB genes contribute to plant drought tolerance is largely unknown. Taking advantages of recent technical and methodological advance, we systematically analyzed all the functional DREB genes in maize and examined their associations with the natural variation in drought tolerance of 368 maize varieties collected from tropical and temperate regions. A significant association in the ZmDREB2.7 gene with drought tolerance was detected in that the DNA polymorphisms in the gene promoter region, but not those in the protein coding region, contributed to observed variations in maize drought tolerance, probably due to the distinct gene expression patterns in response to the stress. Overexpressing ZmDREB2.7 in Arabidopsis resulted in enhanced tolerance to drought stress. Moreover, a favorable ZmDREB2.7 allele, identified from drought-tolerant varieties, was effective in improving plant tolerance to drought stress when it was introduced into a drought-sensitive background. ZmDREB2.7 and its favorable allele represent a valuable genetic resource for enhancing maize drought tolerance by marker assisted breeding and transformation technology.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003790
PMCID: PMC3784558  PMID: 24086146

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