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1.  Molecular Evolution of Trehalose-6-Phosphate Synthase (TPS) Gene Family in Populus, Arabidopsis and Rice 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42438.
Trehalose-6-phosphate synthase (TPS) plays important roles in trehalose metabolism and signaling. Plant TPS proteins contain both a TPS and a trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase (TPP) domain, which are coded by a multi-gene family. The plant TPS gene family has been divided into class I and class II. A previous study showed that the Populus, Arabidopsis, and rice genomes have seven class I and 27 class II TPS genes. In this study, we found that all class I TPS genes had 16 introns within the protein-coding region, whereas class II TPS genes had two introns. A significant sequence difference between the two classes of TPS proteins was observed by pairwise sequence comparisons of the 34 TPS proteins. A phylogenetic analysis revealed that at least seven TPS genes were present in the monocot–dicot common ancestor. Segmental duplications contributed significantly to the expansion of this gene family. At least five and three TPS genes were created by segmental duplication events in the Populus and rice genomes, respectively. Both the TPS and TPP domains of 34 TPS genes have evolved under purifying selection, but the selective constraint on the TPP domain was more relaxed than that on the TPS domain. Among 34 TPS genes from Populus, Arabidopsis, and rice, four class I TPS genes (AtTPS1, OsTPS1, PtTPS1, and PtTPS2) were under stronger purifying selection, whereas three Arabidopsis class I TPS genes (AtTPS2, 3, and 4) apparently evolved under relaxed selective constraint. Additionally, a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction analysis showed the expression divergence of the TPS gene family in Populus, Arabidopsis, and rice under normal growth conditions and in response to stressors. Our findings provide new insights into the mechanisms of gene family expansion and functional evolution.
PMCID: PMC3414516  PMID: 22905132
2.  Transcriptome-wide identification and characterization of miRNAs from Pinus densata 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:132.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play key roles in diverse developmental processes, nutrient homeostasis and responses to biotic and abiotic stresses. The biogenesis and regulatory functions of miRNAs have been intensively studied in model angiosperms, such as Arabidopsis thaliana, Oryza sativa and Populus trichocarpa. However, global identification of Pinus densata miRNAs has not been reported in previous research.
Here, we report the identification of 34 conserved miRNAs belonging to 25 miRNA families from a P. densata mRNA transcriptome database using local BLAST and MIREAP programs. The primary and/or precursor sequences of 29 miRNAs were further confirmed by RT-PCR amplification and subsequent sequencing. The average value of the minimal folding free energy indexes of the 34 miRNA precursors was 0.92. Nineteen (58%) mature miRNAs began with a 5' terminal uridine residue. Analysis of miRNA precursors showed that 19 mature miRNAs were novel members of 14 conserved miRNA families, of which 17 miRNAs were further validated by subcloning and sequencing. Using real-time quantitative RT-PCR, we found that the expression levels of 7 miRNAs were more than 2-fold higher in needles than in stems. In addition, 72 P. densata mRNAs were predicted to be targets of 25 miRNA families. Four target genes, including a nodal modulator 1-like protein gene, two GRAS family transcription factor protein genes and one histone deacetylase gene, were experimentally verified to be the targets of 3 P. densata miRNAs, pde-miR162a, pde-miR171a and pde-miR482a, respectively.
This study led to the discovery of 34 conserved miRNAs comprising 25 miRNA families from Pinus densata. These results lay a solid foundation for further studying the regulative roles of miRNAs in the development, growth and responses to environmental stresses in P. densata.
PMCID: PMC3347991  PMID: 22480283
Pinus densata; miRNA; Transcriptome
3.  Specific and sensitive detection of the conifer pathogen Gremmeniella abietina by nested PCR 
BMC Microbiology  2005;5:65.
Gremmeniella abietina (Lagerb.) Morelet is an ascomycete fungus that causes stem canker and shoot dieback in many conifer species. The fungus is widespread and causes severe damage to forest plantations in Europe, North America and Asia. To facilitate early diagnosis and improve measures to control the spread of the disease, rapid, specific and sensitive detection methods for G. abietina in conifer hosts are needed.
We designed two pairs of specific primers for G. abietina based on the 18S rDNA sequence variation pattern. These primers were validated against a wide range of fungi and 14 potential conifer hosts. Based on these specific primers, two nested PCR systems were developed. The first system employed universal fungal primers to enrich the fungal DNA targets in the first round, followed by a second round selective amplification of the pathogen. The other system employed G. abietina-specific primers in both PCR steps. Both approaches can detect the presence of G. abietina in composite samples with high sensitivity, as little as 7.5 fg G. abietina DNA in the host genomic background.
The methods described here are rapid and can be applied directly to a wide range of conifer species, without the need for fungal isolation and cultivation. Therefore, it represents a promising alternative to disease inspection in forest nurseries, plantations and quarantine control facilities.
PMCID: PMC1298302  PMID: 16280082
4.  Detection and Quantification of Wallemia sebi in Aerosols by Real-Time PCR, Conventional PCR, and Cultivation 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2004;70(12):7295-7302.
Wallemia sebi is a deuteromycete fungus commonly found in agricultural environments in many parts of the world and is suspected to be a causative agent of farmer's lung disease. The fungus grows slowly on commonly used culture media and is often obscured by the fast-growing fungi. Thus, its occurrence in different environments has often been underestimated. In this study, we developed two sets of PCR primers specific to W. sebi that can be applied in either conventional PCR or real-time PCR for rapid detection and quantification of the fungus in environmental samples. Both PCR systems proved to be highly specific and sensitive for W. sebi detection even in a high background of other fungal DNAs. These methods were employed to investigate the presence of W. sebi in the aerosols of a farm. The results revealed a high concentration of W. sebi spores, 107 m−3 by real-time PCR and 106 m−3 by cultivation, which indicates the prevalence of W. sebi in farms handling hay and grain and in cow barns. The methods developed in this study could serve as rapid, specific, and sensitive means of detecting W. sebi in aerosol and surface samples and could thus facilitate investigations of its distribution, ecology, clinical diagnosis, and exposure risk assessment.
PMCID: PMC535157  PMID: 15574929
Determining how a new hybrid lineage can achieve reproductive isolation is a key to understanding the process and mechanisms of homoploid hybrid speciation. Here, we evaluated the degree and nature of reproductive isolation between the ecologically successful hybrid species Pinus densata and its parental species P. tabuliformis and P. yunnanensis. We performed interspecific crosses among the three species to assess their crossability. We then conducted reciprocal transplantation experiments to evaluate their fitness differentiation, and to examine how natural populations representing different directions of introgression differ in adaptation. The crossing experiments revealed weak genetic barriers among the species. The transplantation trials showed manifest evidence of local adaptation as the three species all performed best in their native habitats. Pinus densata populations from the western edge of its distribution have evolved a strong local adaptation to the specific habitat in that range; populations representing different directions of introgressants with the two parental species all showed fitness disadvantages in this P. densata habitat. These observations illustrate that premating isolation through selection against immigrants from other habitat types or postzygotic isolation through selection against backcrosses between the three species is strong. Thus, ecological selection in combination with endogenous components and geographic isolation has likely played a significant role in the speciation of P. densata.
PMCID: PMC4278550  PMID: 25065387
Cross-compatibility; ecological selection; hybrid speciation; local adaptation; population divergence; transplantation experiment

Results 1-5 (5)