Wheat seed germination directly affects wheat yield and quality. Although transcriptome and proteome analyses during seed germination have been reported in some crop plant species, dynamic transcriptome characterization during wheat seed germination has not been conducted. We performed the first comprehensive dynamic transcriptome analysis during different seed germination stages of elite Chinese bread wheat cultivar Jimai 20 using the Affymetrix Wheat Genome Array.
A total of 61,703 probe sets representing 51,411 transcripts were identified during the five seed germination stages of Jimai 20, of which 2,825 differential expression probe sets corresponding to 2,646 transcripts with different functions were declared by ANOVA and a randomized variance model. The seed germination process included a rapid initial uptake phase (0–12 hours after imbibition [HAI]), a plateau phase (12–24 HAI), and a further water uptake phase (24–48 HAI), corresponding to switches from the degradation of small-molecule sucrose to the metabolism of three major nutrients and to photosynthesis. Hierarchical cluster and MapMan analyses revealed changes in several significant metabolism pathways during seed germination as well as related functional groups. The signal pathway networks constructed with KEGG showed three important genes encoding the phosphofructokinase family protein, with fructose-1, 6-bisphosphatase, and UTP-glucose-1-phosphate uridylyltransferase located at the center, indicating their pivotal roles in the glycolytic pathway, gluconeogenesis, and glycogenesis, respectively. Several significant pathways were selected to establish a metabolic pathway network according to their degree value, which allowed us to find the pathways vital to seed germination. Furthermore, 51 genes involved in transport, signaling pathway, development, lipid metabolism, defense response, nitrogen metabolism, and transcription regulation were analyzed by gene co-expression network with a k-core algorithm to determine which play pivotal roles in germination. Twenty-three meaningful genes were found, and quantitative RT-PCR analysis validated the expression patterns of 12 significant genes.
Wheat seed germination comprises three distinct phases and includes complicated regulation networks involving a large number of genes. These genes belong to many functional groups, and their co-regulations guarantee regular germination. Our results provide new insight into metabolic changes during seed germination and interactions between some significant genes.