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1.  Nucleotide sequence of a B1 hordein gene and the identification of possible upstream regulatory elements in endosperm storage protein genes from barley, wheat and maize. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1985;13(20):7327-7339.
The B-hordeins are the major group of prolamin storage proteins in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and they are encoded by a small multigene family that is expressed specifically in the developing endosperm. We report the complete nucleotide sequence of a clone of one B-hordein gene (pBHR184). The cloned gene contains no introns and belongs to the B1 sub-family of B-hordein genes. Comparison of the 5'-flanking sequences of pBHR184 with those of related S-rich prolamin genes from wheat shows that several short sequences within 600 bp upstream of the translation initiation codon are strongly conserved. A sequence that is conserved at around -300 bp in the S-rich prolamins is also conserved at similar locations in genes encoding the two major classes of maize prolamin (the Z19 and Z21 zeins) and appears to be unique to prolamin genes. We discuss the possible role of this '-300 element' in the control of gene expression in the developing cereal endosperm.
PMCID: PMC322047  PMID: 4059057
2.  Effects of Zn Fertilization on Hordein Transcripts at Early Developmental Stage of Barley Grain and Correlation with Increased Zn Concentration in the Mature Grain 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e108546.
Zinc deficiency is causing malnutrition for nearly one third of world populations. It is especially relevant in cereal-based diets in which low amounts of mineral and protein are present. In biological systems, Zn is mainly associated with protein. Cereal grains contain the highest Zn concentration during early developmental stage. Although hordeins are the major storage proteins in the mature barley grain and suggested to be involved in Zn binding, very little information is available regarding the Zn fertilization effects of hordein transcripts at early developmental stage and possible incorporation of Zn with hordein protein of matured grain. Zinc fertilization experiments were conducted in a greenhouse with barley cv. Golden Promise. Zn concentration of the matured grain was measured and the results showed that the increasing Zn fertilization increased grain Zn concentration. Quantitative real time PCR showed increased level of total hordein transcripts upon increasing level of Zn fertilization at 10 days after pollination. Among the hordein transcripts the amount of B-hordeins was highly correlated with the Zn concentration of matured grain. In addition, protein content of the matured grain was analysed and a positive linear relationship was found between the percentage of B-hordein and total grain Zn concentration while C-hordein level decreased. Zn sensing dithizone assay was applied to localize Zn in the matured grain. The Zn distribution was not limited to the embryo and aleurone layer but was also present in the outer part of the endosperm (sub-aleurone layers) which known to be rich in proteins including B-hordeins. Increased Zn fertilization enriched Zn even in the endosperm. Therefore, the increased amount of B-hordein and decreased C-hordein content suggested that B-hordein upregulation or difference between B and C hordein could be one of the key factors for Zn biofortification of cereal grains due to the Zn fertilization.
PMCID: PMC4177403  PMID: 25250985
3.  DNA polymorphisms and haplotype patterns of transcription factors involved in barley endosperm development are associated with key agronomic traits 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:5.
Association mapping is receiving considerable attention in plant genetics for its potential to fine map quantitative trait loci (QTL), validate candidate genes, and identify alleles of interest. In the present study association mapping in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) is investigated by associating DNA polymorphisms with variation in grain quality traits, plant height, and flowering time to gain further understanding of gene functions involved in the control of these traits. We focused on the four loci BLZ1, BLZ2, BPBF and HvGAMYB that play a role in the regulation of B-hordein expression, the major fraction of the barley storage protein. The association was tested in a collection of 224 spring barley accessions using a two-stage mixed model approach.
Within the sequenced fragments of four candidate genes we observed different levels of nucleotide diversity. The effect of selection on the candidate genes was tested by Tajima's D which revealed significant values for BLZ1, BLZ2, and BPBF in the subset of two-rowed barleys. Pair-wise LD estimates between the detected SNPs within each candidate gene revealed different intra-genic linkage patterns. On the basis of a more extensive examination of genomic regions surrounding the four candidate genes we found a sharp decrease of LD (r2<0.2 within 1 cM) in all but one flanking regions.
Significant marker-trait associations between SNP sites within BLZ1 and flowering time, BPBF and crude protein content and BPBF and starch content were detected. Most haplotypes occurred at frequencies <0.05 and therefore were rejected from the association analysis. Based on haplotype information, BPBF was associated to crude protein content and starch content, BLZ2 showed association to thousand-grain weight and BLZ1 was found to be associated with flowering time and plant height.
Differences in nucleotide diversity and LD pattern within the candidate genes BLZ1, BLZ2, BPBF, and HvGAMYB reflect the impact of selection on the nucleotide sequence of the four candidate loci.
Despite significant associations, the analysed candidate genes only explained a minor part of the total genetic variation although they are known to be important factors influencing the expression of seed quality traits. Therefore, we assume that grain quality as well as plant height and flowering time are influenced by many factors each contributing a small part to the expression of the phenotype. A genome-wide association analysis could provide a more comprehensive picture of loci involved in the regulation of grain quality, thousand grain weight and the other agronomic traits that were analyzed in this study. However, despite available high-throughput genotyping arrays the marker density along the barely genome is still insufficient to cover all associations in a whole genome scan. Therefore, the candidate gene-based approach will further play an important role in barley association studies.
PMCID: PMC2822787  PMID: 20064201
4.  Protein and hordein fraction content in barley seeds as affected by sowing date and their relations to malting quality*  
The effect of sowing date on grain protein, hordein fraction content and malting quality of two-rowed spring barley was investigated by using ten commercial cultivars with different grain protein content and the relationships among these traits were examined. The results showed that grain protein content and B hordein content increased as the sowing date postponed and were significantly affected by sowing date, while C and D hordein contents were less influenced by sowing date. There were significant differences in grain protein and hordein fraction content among the ten cultivars. The coefficient of variation of D hordein content was much larger than that of B and C hordein contents, suggesting its greater variation caused by different sowing dates. Beta-amylase activity and diastatic power were also significantly affected by sowing date, with malt extract being less affected. Significant differences in measured malt quality were found among the ten cultivars. Grain protein was significantly correlated with B hordein and malt extract positively and negatively, respectively. There was no significant correlation between beta-amylase activity or diastatic power and grain protein content. B hordein was negatively and significantly correlated with malt extract, but no significant correlations between C hordein, D hordein and malting quality traits.
PMCID: PMC1390653  PMID: 16252340
Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.); Sowing date; Protein; Hordein; Malting quality
5.  A New Class of Wheat Gliadin Genes and Proteins 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52139.
The utility of mining DNA sequence data to understand the structure and expression of cereal prolamin genes is demonstrated by the identification of a new class of wheat prolamins. This previously unrecognized wheat prolamin class, given the name δ-gliadins, is the most direct ortholog of barley γ3-hordeins. Phylogenetic analysis shows that the orthologous δ-gliadins and γ3-hordeins form a distinct prolamin branch that existed separate from the γ-gliadins and γ-hordeins in an ancestral Triticeae prior to the branching of wheat and barley. The expressed δ-gliadins are encoded by a single gene in each of the hexaploid wheat genomes. This single δ-gliadin/γ3-hordein ortholog may be a general feature of the Triticeae tribe since examination of ESTs from three barley cultivars also confirms a single γ3-hordein gene. Analysis of ESTs and cDNAs shows that the genes are expressed in at least five hexaploid wheat cultivars in addition to diploids Triticum monococcum and Aegilops tauschii. The latter two sequences also allow assignment of the δ-gliadin genes to the A and D genomes, respectively, with the third sequence type assumed to be from the B genome. Two wheat cultivars for which there are sufficient ESTs show different patterns of expression, i.e., with cv Chinese Spring expressing the genes from the A and B genomes, while cv Recital has ESTs from the A and D genomes. Genomic sequences of Chinese Spring show that the D genome gene is inactivated by tandem premature stop codons. A fourth δ-gliadin sequence occurs in the D genome of both Chinese Spring and Ae. tauschii, but no ESTs match this sequence and limited genomic sequences indicates a pseudogene containing frame shifts and premature stop codons. Sequencing of BACs covering a 3 Mb region from Ae. tauschii locates the δ-gliadin gene to the complex Gli-1 plus Glu-3 region on chromosome 1.
PMCID: PMC3527421  PMID: 23284903
6.  Characterization of barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) NAC transcription factors suggests conserved functions compared to both monocots and dicots 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:302.
The NAC transcription factor family is involved in the regulation of traits in both monocots and dicots of high agronomic importance. Understanding the precise functions of the NAC genes can be of utmost importance for the improvement of cereal crop plants through plant breeding. For the cereal crop plant barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) only a few NAC genes have so far been investigated.
Through searches in publicly available barley sequence databases we have obtained a list of 48 barley NAC genes (HvNACs) with 43 of them representing full-length coding sequences. Phylogenetic comparisons to Brachypodium, rice, and Arabidopsis NAC proteins indicate that the barley NAC family includes members from all of the eight NAC subfamilies, although by comparison to these species a number of HvNACs still remains to be identified. Using qRT-PCR we investigated the expression profiles of 46 HvNACs across eight barley tissues (young flag leaf, senescing flag leaf, young ear, old ear, milk grain, late dough grain, roots, and developing stem) and two hormone treatments (abscisic acid and methyl jasmonate).
Comparisons of expression profiles of selected barley NAC genes with the published functions of closely related NAC genes from other plant species, including both monocots and dicots, suggest conserved functions in the areas of secondary cell wall biosynthesis, leaf senescence, root development, seed development, and hormone regulated stress responses.
PMCID: PMC3226072  PMID: 21851648
7.  A novel family of γ-gliadin genes are highly regulated by nitrogen supply in developing wheat grain 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2012;64(1):161-168.
Six wheat cultivars were grown at Rothamsted (UK) with three levels of nitrogen fertilizer (100, 200 and 350kg N/ha) in 2009 and 2010. Gene expression in developing caryopses at 21 days post-anthesis (DPA) was profiled using the Affymetrix Wheat GeneChip®. Four of 105 transcripts which were significantly upregulated by nitrogen level were annotated as γ-3 hordein and the identification of corresponding expressed sequence tags showed that they differed in sequence from previously described (typical) γ-gliadins and represented a novel form of γ-gliadin. Real-time reverse transcriptase PCR at 14, 21, 28 and 35 DPA revealed that this transcript was most abundant and most responsive to nitrogen at 21 DPA. Four novel γ-gliadin genes were isolated by PCR amplification from wheat cv. Hereward and the related species Aegilops tauschii and Triticum monococcum while three were assembled from the genomic sequence database of wheat cv. Chinese Spring ( Comparison of the deduced amino acid sequences of the seven genes showed that they shared only 44.4–46.0% identity with the sequence of a typical γ-gliadin (accession number EF15018), but 61.8–68.3% identity with the sequence of γ-3 hordein from the wild barley species Hordeum chilense (AY338065). The novel γ-gliadin genes were localized to the group 1 chromosomes (1A, 1B, 1D).
PMCID: PMC3528027  PMID: 23162123
gliadin genes; grain quality; nitrogen; nutrition; protein; wheat.
8.  Molecular cloning and analysis of cDNA sequences derived from poly A+ RNA from barley endosperm: identification of B hordein related clones. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1981;9(24):6689-6707.
A collection of over 130 cDNA clones has been constructed in the bacterial plasmids pPH207 and pBR322 using as template the poly A+ RNA from membrane-bound polysomes of barley endosperm (cv. Sundance). Fifty four B hordein cDNA clones have been identified by cross-hybridization analysis and in vitro translation of plasmid-selected mRNAs. Hybridization of 11 of the B hordein cDNA clones to Northern blots of size-fractionated RNA indicated that the B hordein mRNA is ca. 1300 nucleotides long. One cDNA clone, pHvE-c16, has been partially sequenced and shown by comparison with C-terminal and other peptide sequences to be related to B1 hordein polypeptides. The results obtained from the analysis of the B hordein cDNA clones support the idea that the Hor 2 locus, which specifies the B hordeins, is complex and codes for a family of related mRNA species.
PMCID: PMC327634  PMID: 6174944
9.  Measuring Hordein (Gluten) in Beer – A Comparison of ELISA and Mass Spectrometry 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56452.
Subjects suffering from coeliac disease, gluten allergy/intolerance must adopt a lifelong avoidance of gluten. Beer contains trace levels of hordeins (gluten) which are too high to be safely consumed by most coeliacs. Accurate measurement of trace hordeins by ELISA is problematic.
We have compared hordein levels in sixty beers, by sandwich ELISA, with the level determined using multiple reaction monitoring mass spectrometry (MRM-MS).
Hordein levels measured by ELISA varied by four orders of magnitude, from zero (for known gluten-free beers) to 47,000 µg/mL (ppm; for a wheat-based beer). Half the commercial gluten-free beers were free of hordein by MS and ELISA. Two gluten-free and two low-gluten beers had zero ELISA readings, but contained significant hordein levels (p<0.05), or near average (60–140%) hordein levels, by MS, respectively. Six beers gave false negatives, with zero ELISA readings but near average hordein content by MS. Approximately 20% of commercial beers had ELISA readings less than 1 ppm, but a near average hordein content by MS. Several barley beers also contained undeclared wheat proteins.
ELISA results did not correlate with the relative content of hordein peptides determined by MS, with all barley based beers containing hordein. We suggest that mass spectrometry is more reliable than ELISA, as ELISA enumerates only the concentration of particular amino-acid epitopes; this may vary between different hordeins and may not be related to the absolute hordein concentration. MS quantification is undertaken using peptides that are specific and unique, enabling the quantification of individual hordein isoforms. This outlines the problem of relying solely on ELISA determination of gluten in beverages such as beer and highlights the need for the development of new sensitive and selective quantitative assay such as MS.
PMCID: PMC3585340  PMID: 23509606
10.  Co-ordinate regulation of cytokinin gene family members during flag leaf and reproductive development in wheat 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:78.
As the global population continues to expand, increasing yield in bread wheat is of critical importance as 20% of the world’s food supply is sourced from this cereal. Several recent studies of the molecular basis of grain yield indicate that the cytokinins are a key factor in determining grain yield. In this study, cytokinin gene family members in bread wheat were isolated from four multigene families which regulate cytokinin synthesis and metabolism, the isopentenyl transferases (IPT), cytokinin oxidases (CKX), zeatin O-glucosyltransferases (ZOG), and β-glucosidases (GLU). As bread wheat is hexaploid, each gene family is also likely to be represented on the A, B and D genomes. By using a novel strategy of qRT-PCR with locus-specific primers shared among the three homoeologues of each family member, detailed expression profiles are provided of family members of these multigene families expressed during leaf, spike and seed development.
The expression patterns of individual members of the IPT, CKX, ZOG, and GLU multigene families in wheat are shown to be tissue- and developmentally-specific. For instance, TaIPT2 and TaCKX1 were the most highly expressed family members during early seed development, with relative expression levels of up to 90- and 900-fold higher, respectively, than those in the lowest expressed samples. The expression of two cis-ZOG genes was sharply increased in older leaves, while an extremely high mRNA level of TaGLU1-1 was detected in young leaves.
Key genes with tissue- and developmentally-specific expression have been identified which would be prime targets for genetic manipulation towards yield improvement in bread wheat breeding programmes, utilising TILLING and MAS strategies.
PMCID: PMC3410795  PMID: 22672647
11.  Association study of wheat grain protein composition reveals that gliadin and glutenin composition are trans-regulated by different chromosome regions 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2013;64(12):3627-3644.
Wheat grain storage protein (GSP) content and composition are the main determinants of the end-use value of bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) grain. The accumulation of glutenins and gliadins, the two main classes of GSP in wheat, is believed to be mainly controlled at the transcriptional level through a network of transcription factors. This regulation network could lead to stable cross-environment allometric scaling relationships between the quantity of GSP classes/subunits and the total quantity of nitrogen per grain. This work conducted a genetic mapping study of GSP content and composition and allometric scaling parameters of grain N allocation using a bread wheat worldwide core collection grown in three environments. The core collection was genotyped with 873 markers for genome-wide association and 167 single nucleotide polymorphism markers in 51 candidate genes for candidate association. The candidate genes included 35 transcription factors (TFs) expressed in grain. This work identified 74 loci associated with 38 variables, of which 19 were candidate genes or were tightly linked with candidate genes. Besides structural GSP genes, several loci putatively trans-regulating GSP accumulation were identified. Seven candidate TFs, including four wheat orthologues of barley TFs that control hordein gene expression, were associated or in strong linkage disequilibrium with markers associated with the composition or quantity of glutenin or gliadin, or allometric grain N allocation parameters, confirming the importance of the transcriptional control of GSP accumulation. Genome-wide association results suggest that the genes regulating glutenin and gliadin compositions are mostly distinct from each other and operate differently.
PMCID: PMC3745720  PMID: 23881399
Association study; bread wheat; ecophysiological model; grain composition; storage proteins; transcription factors; Triticum aestivum.
12.  The miR9863 Family Regulates Distinct Mla Alleles in Barley to Attenuate NLR Receptor-Triggered Disease Resistance and Cell-Death Signaling 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(12):e1004755.
Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) Mla alleles encode coiled-coil (CC), nucleotide binding, leucine-rich repeat (NB-LRR) receptors that trigger isolate-specific immune responses against the powdery mildew fungus, Blumeria graminis f. sp. hordei (Bgh). How Mla or NB-LRR genes in grass species are regulated at post-transcriptional level is not clear. The microRNA family, miR9863, comprises four members that differentially regulate distinct Mla alleles in barley. We show that miR9863 members guide the cleavage of Mla1 transcripts in barley, and block or reduce the accumulation of MLA1 protein in the heterologous Nicotiana benthamiana expression system. Regulation specificity is determined by variation in a unique single-nucleotide-polymorphism (SNP) in mature miR9863 family members and two SNPs in the Mla miR9863-binding site that separates these alleles into three groups. Further, we demonstrate that 22-nt miR9863s trigger the biogenesis of 21-nt phased siRNAs (phasiRNAs) and together these sRNAs form a feed-forward regulation network for repressing the expression of group I Mla alleles. Overexpression of miR9863 members specifically attenuates MLA1, but not MLA10-triggered disease resistance and cell-death signaling. We propose a key role of the miR9863 family in dampening immune response signaling triggered by a group of MLA immune receptors in barley.
Author Summary
Plants rely on cell-surface and intracellular immune receptors to sense pathogen invasion and to mediate defense responses. However, uncontrolled activation of immune responses is harmful to plant growth and development. Small RNAs have recently been shown to fine-tune the expression of intracellular immune receptors and contribute to the regulation of defense signaling in dicot plants, while similar processes have not been well documented in monocot grain crops, such as barley and wheat. Here, we show that, in barley, some members of the miR9863 family target a subset of Mla alleles that confer race-specific disease resistance to the powdery mildew fungus. These miRNAs act on Mla transcripts by cleavage and translational repression. Production of a type of trans-acting small RNAs, designated as phasiRNAs, enhances the effects of miRNA regulation on Mla targets. We propose that Mla-mediated immune signaling is fine-tuned by the miRNAs at later stage of MLA activation to avoid overloading of immune responses in barley cells.
PMCID: PMC4263374  PMID: 25502438
13.  Differential Gene Expression and Epiregulation of Alpha Zein Gene Copies in Maize Haplotypes 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002131.
Multigenic traits are very common in plants and cause diversity. Nutritional quality is such a trait, and one of its factors is the composition and relative expression of storage protein genes. In maize, they represent a medium-size gene family distributed over several chromosomes and unlinked locations. Two inbreds, B73 and BSSS53, both from the Iowa Stiff Stock Synthetic collection, have been selected to analyze allelic and non-allelic variability in these regions that span between 80–500 kb of chromosomal DNA. Genes were copied to unlinked sites before and after allotetraploidization of maize, but before transposition enlarged intergenic regions in a haplotype-specific manner. Once genes are copied, expression of donor genes is reduced relative to new copies. Epigenetic regulation seems to contribute to silencing older copies, because some of them can be reactivated when endosperm is maintained as cultured cells, indicating that copy number variation might contribute to a reserve of gene copies. Bisulfite sequencing of the promoter region also shows different methylation patterns among gene clusters as well as differences between tissues, suggesting a possible position effect on regulatory mechanisms as a result of inserting copies at unlinked locations. The observations offer a potential paradigm for how different gene families evolve and the impact this has on their expression and regulation of their members.
Author Summary
We present here how the structure and function of a multigene family has shaped the architecture of the maize genome in a haplotype-specific manner, before and after allotetraploidization. The alpha zein gene family, the main component of storage protein genes, provides us with a model of how multicopy gene families evolve and are regulated in the plant kingdom. Indeed, gene copying might be the mechanism that helps plants adapt to variable environmental conditions. In this context, the alpha zein genes have evolved from a common ancestral copy, located on the short arm of chromosome 1, to become a 41-member gene family in the reference maize genome, B73. Different haplotypes can vary, though, as we show here, both in gene copy number and in their sequence context, the latter one being the result of the tremendous transposable element activity that the maize genome has undergone after its allotetraploidization. That had impact not only on the expression patterns of the gene family members, with newest copies contributing the most of the mRNA pool, but also on the mechanisms employed in their regulation, such as methylation of promoter sequences, which seems to be locus-specific.
PMCID: PMC3121756  PMID: 21731501
14.  Expansion of the gamma-gliadin gene family in Aegilops and Triticum 
The gamma-gliadins are considered to be the oldest of the gliadin family of storage proteins in Aegilops/Triticum. However, the expansion of this multigene family has not been studied in an evolutionary perspective.
We have cloned 59 gamma-gliadin genes from Aegilops and Triticum species (Aegilops caudata L., Aegilops comosa Sm. in Sibth. & Sm., Aegilops mutica Boiss., Aegilops speltoides Tausch, Aegilops tauschii Coss., Aegilops umbellulata Zhuk., Aegilops uniaristata Vis., and Triticum monococcum L.) representing eight different genomes: Am, B/S, C, D, M, N, T and U. Overall, 15% of the sequences contained internal stop codons resulting in pseudogenes, but this percentage was variable among genomes, up to over 50% in Ae. umbellulata. The most common length of the deduced protein, including the signal peptide, was 302 amino acids, but the length varied from 215 to 362 amino acids, both obtained from Ae. speltoides. Most genes encoded proteins with eight cysteines. However, all Aegilops species had genes that encoded a gamma-gliadin protein of 302 amino acids with an additional cysteine. These conserved nine-cysteine gamma-gliadins may perform a specific function, possibly as chain terminators in gluten network formation in protein bodies during endosperm development. A phylogenetic analysis of gamma-gliadins derived from Aegilops and Triticum species and the related genera Lophopyrum, Crithopsis, and Dasypyrum showed six groups of genes. Most Aegilops species contained gamma-gliadin genes from several of these groups, which also included sequences from the genera Lophopyrum, Crithopsis, and Dasypyrum. Hordein and secalin sequences formed separate groups.
We present a model for the evolution of the gamma-gliadins from which we deduce that the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of Aegilops/Triticum-Dasypyrum-Lophopyrum-Crithopsis already had four groups of gamma-gliadin sequences, presumably the result of two rounds of duplication of the locus.
PMCID: PMC3537741  PMID: 23137212
Gamma-gliadin; Wheat; Triticum; Aegilops; Multigene family; Evolution
15.  Sequence of a Complete Chicken BG Haplotype Shows Dynamic Expansion and Contraction of Two Gene Lineages with Particular Expression Patterns 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(6):e1004417.
Many genes important in immunity are found as multigene families. The butyrophilin genes are members of the B7 family, playing diverse roles in co-regulation and perhaps in antigen presentation. In humans, a fixed number of butyrophilin genes are found in and around the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), and show striking association with particular autoimmune diseases. In chickens, BG genes encode homologues with somewhat different domain organisation. Only a few BG genes have been characterised, one involved in actin-myosin interaction in the intestinal brush border, and another implicated in resistance to viral diseases. We characterise all BG genes in B12 chickens, finding a multigene family organised as tandem repeats in the BG region outside the MHC, a single gene in the MHC (the BF-BL region), and another single gene on a different chromosome. There is a precise cell and tissue expression for each gene, but overall there are two kinds, those expressed by haemopoietic cells and those expressed in tissues (presumably non-haemopoietic cells), correlating with two different kinds of promoters and 5′ untranslated regions (5′UTR). However, the multigene family in the BG region contains many hybrid genes, suggesting recombination and/or deletion as major evolutionary forces. We identify BG genes in the chicken whole genome shotgun sequence, as well as by comparison to other haplotypes by fibre fluorescence in situ hybridisation, confirming dynamic expansion and contraction within the BG region. Thus, the BG genes in chickens are undergoing much more rapid evolution compared to their homologues in mammals, for reasons yet to be understood.
Author Summary
Many immune genes are multigene families, presumably in response to pathogen variation. Some multigene families undergo expansion and contraction, leading to copy number variation (CNV), presumably due to more intense selection. Recently, the butyrophilin family in humans and other mammals has come under scrutiny, due to genetic associations with autoimmune diseases as well as roles in immune co-regulation and antigen presentation. Butyrophilin genes exhibit allelic polymorphism, but gene number appears stable within a species. We found that the BG homologues in chickens are very different, with great changes between haplotypes. We characterised one haplotype in detail, showing that there are two single BG genes, one on chromosome 2 and the other in the major histocompatibility complex (BF-BL region) on chromosome 16, and a family of BG genes in a tandem array in the BG region nearby. These genes have specific expression in cells and tissues, but overall are expressed in either haemopoietic cells or tissues. The two singletons have relatively stable evolutionary histories, but the BG region undergoes dynamic expansion and contraction, with the production of hybrid genes. Thus, chicken BG genes appear to evolve much more quickly than their closest homologs in mammals, presumably due to increased pressure from pathogens.
PMCID: PMC4046983  PMID: 24901252
16.  Population Structure of the Relapsing Fever Spirochete Borrelia hermsii as Indicated by Polymorphism of Two Multigene Families That Encode Immunogenic Outer Surface Lipoproteins 
Infection and Immunity  1998;66(2):432-440.
The tick-borne relapsing fever spirochete Borrelia hermsii evades the mammalian immune system by periodically switching expression among members of two multigene families that encode immunogenic, antigenically distinct outer surface proteins. The type strain, B. hermsii HS1, has at least 40 complete genes and pseudogenes that participate in this multiphasic antigenic variation. Originally termed vmp (for variable major protein) genes, they have been reclassified as vsp (for variable small protein) and vlp (for variable large protein) genes, based on size and amino acid sequence similarities. To date, antigenic variation in B. hermsii has been studied only in the type strain, HS1. Nucleotide sequence comparisons of 23 B. hermsii HS1 genes revealed five distinct groups, the vsp gene family and four subfamilies of vlp genes. We used PCR with family- and subfamily-specific primers, followed by restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis, to compare the vsp and vlp repertoires of HS1 and seven other B. hermsii isolates from Washington, Idaho, and California. This analysis, together with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis genome profiles, revealed that the eight isolates formed three distinct groups, which likely represent clonal lineages. Members of the three groups coexisted in the same geographic area, but they could also be isolated across large geographical distances. This population structure may result from immune selection by the host, as has been proposed for other pathogens with polymorphic antigens.
PMCID: PMC107923  PMID: 9453591
17.  Expression Patterns of HvCKX Genes Indicate Their Role in Growth and Reproductive Development of Barley 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115729.
Cytokinin oxidase/dehydrogenase proteins (CKX) are encoded by a multigene family of CKX genes with a varying number of members depending on species. For some of the genes, spectacular effects on grain production in selected cereals have been observed. Despite the fact that partial or full length sequences of most HvCKX genes in barley (Hordeum vulgare) have already been published, in most cases their specific biological functions have not been reported. Detailed expression patterns for five HvCKX genes in different organs/tissues of developing barley plants coupled with analysis of RNAi silent for two genes are presented to test the hypothesis that these expression profiles might indicate their function. Elevated expression for four of them – HvCKX1, HvCKX9, HvCKX4, and HvCKX11 – was found in developing kernels of wild-type plants compared to other tissues. HvCKX5 was mainly expressed in leaf tissue. Lower expression was noted for HvCKX1 in seedling roots and for HvCKX9 in leaves. The documented effect of RNAi silencing of HvCKX1 and a trend for HvCKX9 was higher plant productivity, and the trait was inherited through four generations. Higher plant yield was determined by higher numbers of seeds and spikes. Increased productivity was significantly greater in HvCKX1 silenced plants showing higher relative expression of HvCKX1 in developing kernels of wild-type plants compared to the expression of HvCKX9. Both HvCKX1 silenced T1 seedlings of cv. Golden Promise and the newly transformed breeding line STH7308 showed greater root mass, but this trait was not inherited in the next generation. Similarly HvCKX9 silenced T1 seedlings exhibited greater plant height without inheritance in the next generation. It is suggested that these effects were not inherited because of compensation by other genes co-ordinately regulating reproductive development. One line with untypically changed, inherited phenotype, which was selected from several dozen silenced lines showing stable and common phenotypes is presented.
PMCID: PMC4274103  PMID: 25531889
18.  Differences in Grain Ultrastructure, Phytochemical and Proteomic Profiles between the Two Contrasting Grain Cd-Accumulation Barley Genotypes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79158.
To reveal grain physio-chemical and proteomic differences between two barley genotypes, Zhenong8 and W6nk2 of high- and low- grain-Cd-accumulation, grain profiles of ultrastructure, amino acid and proteins were compared. Results showed that W6nk2 possesses significantly lower protein content, with hordein depicting the greatest genotypic difference, compared with Zhenong8, and lower amino acid contents with especially lower proportion of Glu, Tyr, Phe and Pro. Both scanning and transmission electron microscopy observation declared that the size of A-type starch molecule in W6nk2 was considerably larger than that of Zhenong8. Grains of Zhenong8 exhibited more protein-rich deposits around starch granules, with some A-type granules having surface pits. Seventeen proteins were identified in grains, using 2-DE coupled with mass spectrometry, with higher expression in Zhenong8 than that in W6nk2; including z-type serpin, serpin-Z7 and alpha-amylase/trypsin inhibitor CM, carbohydrate metabolism, protein synthesis and signal transduction related proteins. Twelve proteins were less expressed in Zhenong8 than that in W6nk2; including barley trypsin inhibitor chloroform/methanol-soluble protein (BTI-CMe2.1, BTI-CMe2.2), trypsin inhibitor, dehydroascorbate reductase (DHAR), pericentrin, dynein heavy chain and some antiviral related proteins. The data extend our understanding of mechanisms underlying Cd accumulation/tolerance and provides possible utilization of elite genetic resources in developing low-grain-Cd barley cultivars.
PMCID: PMC3832469  PMID: 24260165
19.  A cathepsin F-like peptidase involved in barley grain protein mobilization, HvPap-1, is modulated by its own propeptide and by cystatins 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2012;63(12):4615-4629.
Among the C1A cysteine proteases, the plant cathepsin F-like group has been poorly studied. This paper describes the molecular and functional characterization of the HvPap-1 cathepsin F-like protein from barley. This peptidase is N-glycosylated and has to be processed to become active by its own propeptide being an important modulator of the peptidase activity. The expression pattern of its mRNA and protein suggest that it is involved in different proteolytic processes in the barley plant. HvPap-1 peptidase has been purified in Escherichia coli and the recombinant protein is able to degrade different substrates, including barley grain proteins (hordeins, albumins, and globulins) stored in the barley endosperm. It has been localized in protein bodies and vesicles of the embryo and it is induced in aleurones by gibberellin treatment. These three features support the implication of HvPap-1 in storage protein mobilization during grain germination. In addition, a complex regulation exerted by the barley cystatins, which are cysteine protease inhibitors, and by its own propeptide, is also described
PMCID: PMC3421991  PMID: 22791822
Barley grain, cathepsin F-like peptidase, cystatin, cysteine protease, grain germination, propeptide, protein mobilization, proteolysis.
20.  Genetic mapping of quantitative trait loci associated with β-amylase and limit dextrinase activities and β-glucan and protein fraction contents in barley*  
High malting quality of barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) relies on many traits, such as β-amylase and limit dextrinase activities and β-glucan and protein fraction contents. In this study, interval mapping was utilized to detect quantitative trait loci (QTLs) affecting these malting quality parameters using a doubled haploid (DH) population from a cross of CM72 (six-rowed) by Gairdner (two-rowed) barley cultivars. A total of nine QTLs for eight traits were mapped to chromosomes 3H, 4H, 5H, and 7H. Five of the nine QTLs mapped to chromosome 3H, indicating a possible role of loci on chromosome 3H on malting quality. The phenotypic variation accounted by individual QTL ranged from 8.08% to 30.25%. The loci of QTLs for β-glucan and limit dextrinase were identified on chromosomes 4H and 5H, respectively. QTL for hordeins was coincident with the region of silica eluate (SE) protein on 3HS, while QTLs for albumins, globulins, and total protein exhibited overlapping. One locus on chromosome 3H was found to be related to β-amylase, and two loci on chromosomes 5H and 7H were found to be associated with glutelins. The identification of these novel QTLs controlling malting quality may be useful for marker-assisted selection in improving barley malting quality.
PMCID: PMC2772889  PMID: 19882759
Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.); Quantitative trait locus; β-amylase; Limit dextrinase; β-glucan; Protein fraction
21.  Validation of reference genes for quantitative RT-PCR studies of gene expression in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) 
Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) is an important pasture and turf crop. Biotechniques such as gene expression studies are being employed to improve traits in this temperate grass. Quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) is among the best methods available for determining changes in gene expression. Before analysis of target gene expression, it is essential to select an appropriate normalisation strategy to control for non-specific variation between samples. Reference genes that have stable expression at different biological and physiological states can be effectively used for normalisation; however, their expression stability must be validated before use.
Existing Serial Analysis of Gene Expression data were queried to identify six moderately expressed genes that had relatively stable gene expression throughout the year. These six candidate reference genes (eukaryotic elongation factor 1 alpha, eEF1A; TAT-binding protein homolog 1, TBP-1; eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4 alpha, eIF4A; YT521-B-like protein family protein, YT521-B; histone 3, H3; ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme, E2) were validated for qRT-PCR normalisation in 442 diverse perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) samples sourced from field- and laboratory-grown plants under a wide range of experimental conditions. Eukaryotic EF1A is encoded by members of a multigene family exhibiting differential expression and necessitated the expression analysis of different eEF1A encoding genes; a highly expressed eEF1A (h), a moderately, but stably expressed eEF1A (s), and combined expression of multigene eEF1A (m). NormFinder identified eEF1A (s) and YT521-B as the best combination of two genes for normalisation of gene expression data in perennial ryegrass following different defoliation management in the field.
This study is unique in the magnitude of samples tested with the inclusion of numerous field-grown samples, helping pave the way to conduct gene expression studies in perennial biomass crops under field-conditions. From our study several stably expressed reference genes have been validated. This provides useful candidates for reference gene selection in perennial ryegrass under conditions other than those tested here.
PMCID: PMC2827471  PMID: 20089196
22.  Stability and inheritance of endosperm-specific expression of two transgenes in progeny from crossing independently transformed barley plants 
Plant Cell Reports  2009;28(8):1265-1272.
To study stability and inheritance of two different transgenes in barley, we crossed a homozygous T8 plant, having uidA (or gus) driven by the barley endosperm-specific B1-hordein promoter (localized in the near centromeric region of chromosome 7H) with a second homozygous T4 plant, having sgfp(S65T) driven by the barley endosperm-specific D-hordein promoter (localized on the subtelomeric region of chromosome 2H). Both lines stably expressed the two transgenes in the generations prior to the cross. Three independently crossed F1 progeny were analyzed by PCR for both uidA and sgfp(S65T) in each plant and functional expression of GUS and GFP in F2 seeds followed a 3:1 Mendelian segregation ratio and transgenes were localized by FISH to the same location as in the parental plants. FISH was used to screen F2 plants for homozygosity of both transgenes; four homozygous plants were identified from the two crossed lines tested. FISH results showing presence of transgenes were consistent with segregation ratios of expression of both transgenes, indicating that the two transgenes were expressed without transgene silencing in homozygous progeny advanced to the F3 and F4 generations. Thus, even after crossing independently transformed, homozygous parental plants containing a single, stably expressed transgene, progeny were obtained that continued to express multiple transgenes through generation advance. Such stability of transgenes, following outcrossing, is an important attribute for trait modification and for gene flow studies.
PMCID: PMC2717377  PMID: 19529943
Barley; Crossing; FISH; Hordein promoter; Transgene expression stability; Transgene inheritance
23.  Multigene family isoform profiling from blood cell lineages 
BMC Genomics  2002;3:22.
Analysis of cell-selective gene expression for families of proteins of therapeutic interest is crucial when deducing the influence of genes upon complex traits and disease susceptibility. Presently, there is no convenient tool for examining isoform-selective expression for large gene families. A multigene isoform profiling strategy was developed and used to investigate the inwardly rectifying K+ (Kir) channel family in human leukocytes. Comprised of seven subfamilies, Kir channels have important roles in setting the resting membrane potential in excitable and non-excitable cells.
Gene sequence alignment allowed determination of "islands" of amino acid homology, and sub-family "centred" priming permitted simultaneous co-amplification of each family member. Validation and cross-priming analysis was performed against a panel of cognate Kir channel clones. Radiolabelling and diagnostic restriction digestion of pooled PCR products enabled determination of distinct Kir gene expression profiles in pure populations of human neutrophils, eosinophils and lung mast cells, with conservation of Kir2.0 isoforms amongst the leukocyte subsets. We also identified a Kir2.0 channel product, which may potentially represent a novel family member.
We have developed a novel, rapid and flexible strategy for the determination of gene family isoform composition in any cell type with the additional capacity to detect hitherto unidentified family members and verified its application in a study of Kir channel isoform expression in human leukocytes.
PMCID: PMC122081  PMID: 12167175
24.  A new computational approach redefines the subtelomeric vir superfamily of Plasmodium vivax 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:8.
Subtelomeric multigene families of malaria parasites encode virulent determinants. The published genome sequence of Plasmodium vivax revealed the largest subtelomeric multigene family of human malaria parasites, the vir super-family, presently composed of 346 vir genes subdivided into 12 different subfamilies based on sequence homologies detected by BLAST.
A novel computational approach was used to redefine vir genes. First, a protein-weighted graph was built based on BLAST alignments. This graph was processed to ensure that edge weights are not exclusively based on the BLAST score between the two corresponding proteins, but strongly dependant on their graph neighbours and their associations. Then the Markov Clustering Algorithm was applied to the protein graph. Next, the Homology Block concept was used to further validate this clustering approach. Finally, proteome-wide analysis was carried out to predict new VIR members. Results showed that (i) three previous subfamilies cannot longer be classified as vir genes; (ii) most previously unclustered vir genes were clustered into vir subfamilies; (iii) 39 hypothetical proteins were predicted as VIR proteins; (iv) many of these findings are supported by a number of structural and functional evidences, sub-cellular localization studies, gene expression analysis and chromosome localization (v) this approach can be used to study other multigene families in malaria.
This methodology, resource and new classification of vir genes will contribute to a new structural framing of this multigene family and other multigene families of malaria parasites, facilitating the design of experiments to understand their role in pathology, which in turn may help furthering vaccine development.
PMCID: PMC3566924  PMID: 23324551
Malaria; Plasmodium vivax; vir genes; VIR proteins; Subtelomeric multigene families; Sequence clustering; Similarity networks; Homology blocks
25.  The study of two barley Type I-like MADS-box genes as potential targets of epigenetic regulation during seed development 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:166.
MADS-box genes constitute a large family of transcription factors functioning as key regulators of many processes during plant vegetative and reproductive development. Type II MADS-box genes have been intensively investigated and are mostly involved in vegetative and flowering development. A growing number of studies of Type I MADS-box genes in Arabidopsis, have assigned crucial roles for these genes in gamete and seed development and have demonstrated that a number of Type I MADS-box genes are epigenetically regulated by DNA methylation and histone modifications. However, reports on agronomically important cereals such as barley and wheat are scarce.
Here we report the identification and characterization of two Type I-like MADS-box genes, from barley (Hordeum vulgare), a monocot cereal crop of high agronomic importance. Protein sequence and phylogenetic analysis showed that the putative proteins are related to Type I MADS-box proteins, and classified them in a distinct cereal clade. Significant differences in gene expression among seed developmental stages and between barley cultivars with varying seed size were revealed for both genes. One of these genes was shown to be induced by the seed development- and stress-related hormones ABA and JA whereas in situ hybridizations localized the other gene to specific endosperm sub-compartments. The genomic organization of the latter has high conservation with the cereal Type I-like MADS-box homologues and the chromosomal position of both genes is close to markers associated with seed quality traits. DNA methylation differences are present in the upstream and downstream regulatory regions of the barley Type I-like MADS-box genes in two different developmental stages and in response to ABA treatment which may be associated with gene expression differences.
Two barley MADS-box genes were studied that are related to Type I MADS-box genes. Differential expression in different seed developmental stages as well as in barley cultivars with different seed size was evidenced for both genes. The two barley Type I MADS-box genes were found to be induced by ABA and JA. DNA methylation differences in different seed developmental stages and after exogenous application of ABA is suggestive of epigenetic regulation of gene expression. The study of barley Type I-like MADS-box genes extends our investigations of gene regulation during endosperm and seed development in a monocot crop like barley.
PMCID: PMC3499179  PMID: 22985436
MADS-Box; Epigenetic regulation; Chromatin; DNA methylation; Histone methylation; Seed development; Endosperm; Retrotransposon; Barley

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