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1.  Allelic diversity in the transcriptomes of contrasting rust-infected genotypes of Lathyrus sativus, a lasting resource for smart breeding 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:376.
Grass pea (Lathyrus sativus L.) is a valuable resource for potentially durable partial resistance to rust. To gain insight into the resistance mechanism and identify potential resistance genes, we generated the first comprehensive transcriptome assemblies from control and Uromyces pisi inoculated leafs of a susceptible and a partially rust-resistant grass pea genotype by RNA-seq.
134,914 contigs, shared by both libraries, were used to analyse their differential expression in response to rust infection. Functional annotation grouped 60.4% of the contigs present in plant databases (37.8% of total) to 33 main functional categories, being “protein”, “RNA”, “signalling”, “transport” and “stress” the most represented. Transcription profiles revealed considerable differences in regulation of major phytohormone signalling pathways: whereas Salicylic and Abscisic Acid pathways were up-regulated in the resistant genotype, Jasmonate and Ethylene pathways were down-regulated in the susceptible one. As potential Resistance-genes we identified a mildew resistance locus O (MLO)-like gene, and MLO-related transcripts. Also, several pathogenesis-related genes were up-regulated in the resistant and exclusively down regulated in the susceptible genotype. Pathogen effectors identified in both inoculated libraries, as e.g. the rust Rtp1 transcript, may be responsible for the down-regulation of defence-related transcripts. The two genotypes contained 4,892 polymorphic contigs with SNPs unevenly distributed between different functional categories. Protein degradation (29.7%) and signalling receptor kinases (8.2%) were the most diverged, illustrating evolutionary adaptation of grass pea to the host/pathogens arms race.
The vast array of novel, resistance-related genomic information we present here provides a highly valuable resource for future smart breeding approaches in this hitherto under-researched, valuable legume crop.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-014-0376-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4331309  PMID: 25522779
Grass pea; Partial resistance; Pathogen effectors; RNA-seq; SNP; Uromyces
2.  APADB: a database for alternative polyadenylation and microRNA regulation events 
Alternative polyadenylation (APA) is a widespread mechanism that contributes to the sophisticated dynamics of gene regulation. Approximately 50% of all protein-coding human genes harbor multiple polyadenylation (PA) sites; their selective and combinatorial use gives rise to transcript variants with differing length of their 3′ untranslated region (3′UTR). Shortened variants escape UTR-mediated regulation by microRNAs (miRNAs), especially in cancer, where global 3′UTR shortening accelerates disease progression, dedifferentiation and proliferation. Here we present APADB, a database of vertebrate PA sites determined by 3′ end sequencing, using massive analysis of complementary DNA ends. APADB provides (A)PA sites for coding and non-coding transcripts of human, mouse and chicken genes. For human and mouse, several tissue types, including different cancer specimens, are available. APADB records the loss of predicted miRNA binding sites and visualizes next-generation sequencing reads that support each PA site in a genome browser. The database tables can either be browsed according to organism and tissue or alternatively searched for a gene of interest. APADB is the largest database of APA in human, chicken and mouse. The stored information provides experimental evidence for thousands of PA sites and APA events. APADB combines 3′ end sequencing data with prediction algorithms of miRNA binding sites, allowing to further improve prediction algorithms. Current databases lack correct information about 3′UTR lengths, especially for chicken, and APADB provides necessary information to close this gap.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC4105710  PMID: 25052703
3.  DNA fingerprinting in botany: past, present, future 
Almost three decades ago Alec Jeffreys published his seminal Nature papers on the use of minisatellite probes for DNA fingerprinting of humans (Jeffreys and colleagues Nature 1985, 314:67–73 and Nature 1985, 316:76–79). The new technology was soon adopted for many other organisms including plants, and when Hilde Nybom, Kurt Weising and Alec Jeffreys first met at the very First International Conference on DNA Fingerprinting in Berne, Switzerland, in 1990, everybody was enthusiastic about the novel method that allowed us for the first time to discriminate between humans, animals, plants and fungi on the individual level using DNA markers. A newsletter coined “Fingerprint News” was launched, T-shirts were sold, and the proceedings of the Berne conference filled a first book on “DNA fingerprinting: approaches and applications”. Four more conferences were about to follow, one on each continent, and Alec Jeffreys of course was invited to all of them. Since these early days, methodologies have undergone a rapid evolution and diversification. A multitude of techniques have been developed, optimized, and eventually abandoned when novel and more efficient and/or more reliable methods appeared. Despite some overlap between the lifetimes of the different technologies, three phases can be defined that coincide with major technological advances. Whereas the first phase of DNA fingerprinting (“the past”) was dominated by restriction fragment analysis in conjunction with Southern blot hybridization, the advent of the PCR in the late 1980s gave way to the development of PCR-based single- or multi-locus profiling techniques in the second phase. Given that many routine applications of plant DNA fingerprinting still rely on PCR-based markers, we here refer to these methods as “DNA fingerprinting in the present”, and include numerous examples in the present review. The beginning of the third phase actually dates back to 2005, when several novel, highly parallel DNA sequencing strategies were developed that increased the throughput over current Sanger sequencing technology 1000-fold and more. High-speed DNA sequencing was soon also exploited for DNA fingerprinting in plants, either in terms of facilitated marker development, or directly in the sense of “genotyping-by-sequencing”. Whereas these novel approaches are applied at an ever increasing rate also in non-model species, they are still far from routine, and we therefore treat them here as “DNA fingerprinting in the future”.
PMCID: PMC3880010  PMID: 24386986
DNA fingerprinting; Genetic mapping; Genotyping-by-sequencing; Microsatellites; Plants; Population genetics; Single nucleotide polymorphisms; Systematics
4.  Combinatory Microarray and SuperSAGE Analyses Identify Pairing-Dependently Transcribed Genes in Schistosoma mansoni Males, Including Follistatin 
Schistosomiasis is a disease of world-wide importance and is caused by parasitic flatworms of the genus Schistosoma. These parasites exhibit a unique reproduction biology as the female's sexual maturation depends on a constant pairing-contact to the male. Pairing leads to gonad differentiation in the female, and even gene expression of some gonad-associated genes is controlled by pairing. In contrast, no morphological changes have been observed in males, although first data indicated an effect of pairing also on gene transcription in males.
Methodology/Principal Findings
To investigate the influence of pairing on males, we performed a combinatory approach applying SuperSAGE and microarray hybridization, generating the most comprehensive data-set on differential transcription available to date. Of 6,326 sense transcripts detected by both analyses, 29 were significantly differentially transcribed. Besides mutual confirmation, the two methods complemented each other as shown by data comparison and real-time PCR, which revealed a number of genes with consistent regulation across all methods. One of the candidate genes, follistatin of S. mansoni (SmFst) was characterized in more detail by in situ hybridization and yeast two-hybrid (Y2H) interaction analyses with potential binding partners.
Beyond confirming previously hypothesized differences in metabolic processes between pairing-experienced (EM) and pairing-unexperienced males (UM), our data indicate that neuronal processes are involved in male-female interaction but also TGFβ-signaling. One candidate revealing significant down-regulation in EM was the TGFβ-pathway controlling molecule follistatin (SmFst). First functional analyses demonstrated SmFst interaction with the S. mansoni TGFβ-receptor agonists inhibin/activin (SmInAct) and bone morphogenic protein (SmBMP), and all molecules colocalized in the testes. This indicates a yet unknown role of the TGFβ-pathway for schistosome biology leading to male competence and a possible influence of pairing on the male gonad.
Author Summary
Schistosomiasis is an important infectious disease caused by worm parasites of the genus Schistosoma and directly affects more than 240 million people in 78 tropical and sub-tropical countries but also animals. Pathogenesis is triggered by eggs that are produced by paired females and get trapped in liver and gut causing severe inflammation. While studies have concentrated on the reproductive biology of schistosome females in the past, not much is known about males even though they are indispensable for female sexual development and egg production. Therefore, we studied pairing-dependent processes in S. mansoni males using two independent transcriptomics approaches providing a congruent and most comprehensive data-set on genes being differentially transcribed between pairing-experienced, competent males and pairing-unexperienced, naive males. Besides confirming former studies concerning changes in metabolic processes, our results give new insights into processes leading to male competence indicating among others a potential role of neurotransmitters and TGFβ signal-transduction processes. We especially highlight the follistatin gene SmFst, which codes for an inhibitor of the TGFβ-pathway. SmFst transcription was localized in the testes and found to be down-regulated in pairing-experienced males. This indicates a yet unknown function of pairing on the male gonad and a further role of TGFβ-signaling for schistosome biology.
PMCID: PMC3820750  PMID: 24244773
5.  Massive analysis of cDNA Ends (MACE) and miRNA expression profiling identifies proatherogenic pathways in chronic kidney disease 
Epigenetics  2013;9(1):161-172.
Epigenetic dysregulation contributes to the high cardiovascular disease burden in chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients. Although microRNAs (miRNAs) are central epigenetic regulators, which substantially affect the development and progression of cardiovascular disease (CVD), no data on miRNA dysregulation in CKD-associated CVD are available until now. We now performed high-throughput miRNA sequencing of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from ten clinically stable hemodialysis (HD) patients and ten healthy controls, which allowed us to identify 182 differentially expressed miRNAs (e.g., miR-21, miR-26b, miR-146b, miR-155). To test biological relevance, we aimed to connect miRNA dysregulation to differential gene expression. Genome-wide gene expression profiling by MACE (Massive Analysis of cDNA Ends) identified 80 genes to be differentially expressed between HD patients and controls, which could be linked to cardiovascular disease (e.g., KLF6, DUSP6, KLF4), to infection / immune disease (e.g., ZFP36, SOCS3, JUND), and to distinct proatherogenic pathways such as the Toll-like receptor signaling pathway (e.g., IL1B, MYD88, TICAM2), the MAPK signaling pathway (e.g., DUSP1, FOS, HSPA1A), and the chemokine signaling pathway (e.g., RHOA, PAK1, CXCL5). Formal interaction network analysis proved biological relevance of miRNA dysregulation, as 68 differentially expressed miRNAs could be connected to 47 reciprocally expressed target genes. Our study is the first comprehensive miRNA analysis in CKD that links dysregulated miRNA expression with differential expression of genes connected to inflammation and CVD. After recent animal data suggested that targeting miRNAs is beneficial in experimental CVD, our data may now spur further research in the field of CKD-associated human CVD.
PMCID: PMC3928179  PMID: 24184689
miRNA; epigenetics; kidney disease; hemodialysis; atherosclerosis; cardiovascular disease; MACE; next-generation sequencing
6.  Comparative transcript profiling by SuperSAGE identifies novel candidate genes for controlling potato quantitative resistance to late blight not compromised by late maturity 
Resistance to pathogens is essential for survival of wild and cultivated plants. Pathogen susceptibility causes major losses of crop yield and quality. Durable field resistance combined with high yield and other superior agronomic characters are therefore, important objectives in every crop breeding program. Precision and efficacy of resistance breeding can be enhanced by molecular diagnostic tools, which result from knowledge of the molecular basis of resistance and susceptibility. Breeding uses resistance conferred by single R genes and polygenic quantitative resistance. The latter is partial but considered more durable. Molecular mechanisms of plant pathogen interactions are elucidated mainly in experimental systems involving single R genes, whereas most genes important for quantitative resistance in crops like potato are unknown. Quantitative resistance of potato to Phytophthora infestans causing late blight is often compromised by late plant maturity, a negative agronomic character. Our objective was to identify candidate genes for quantitative resistance to late blight not compromised by late plant maturity. We used diagnostic DNA-markers to select plants with different field levels of maturity corrected resistance (MCR) to late blight and compared their leaf transcriptomes before and after infection with P. infestans using SuperSAGE (serial analysis of gene expression) technology and next generation sequencing. We identified 2034 transcripts up or down regulated upon infection, including a homolog of the kiwi fruit allergen kiwellin. 806 transcripts showed differential expression between groups of genotypes with contrasting MCR levels. The observed expression patterns suggest that MCR is in part controlled by differential transcript levels in uninfected plants. Functional annotation suggests that, besides biotic and abiotic stress responses, general cellular processes such as photosynthesis, protein biosynthesis, and degradation play a role in MCR.
PMCID: PMC3827546  PMID: 24294214
potato; late blight; transcript profiling; SAGE; marker-assisted selection
8.  Short read Illumina data for the de novo assembly of a non-model snail species transcriptome (Radix balthica, Basommatophora, Pulmonata), and a comparison of assembler performance 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:317.
Until recently, read lengths on the Solexa/Illumina system were too short to reliably assemble transcriptomes without a reference sequence, especially for non-model organisms. However, with read lengths up to 100 nucleotides available in the current version, an assembly without reference genome should be possible. For this study we created an EST data set for the common pond snail Radix balthica by Illumina sequencing of a normalized transcriptome. Performance of three different short read assemblers was compared with respect to: the number of contigs, their length, depth of coverage, their quality in various BLAST searches and the alignment to mitochondrial genes.
A single sequencing run of a normalized RNA pool resulted in 16,923,850 paired end reads with median read length of 61 bases. The assemblies generated by VELVET, OASES, and SeqMan NGEN differed in the total number of contigs, contig length, the number and quality of gene hits obtained by BLAST searches against various databases, and contig performance in the mt genome comparison. While VELVET produced the highest overall number of contigs, a large fraction of these were of small size (< 200bp), and gave redundant hits in BLAST searches and the mt genome alignment. The best overall contig performance resulted from the NGEN assembly. It produced the second largest number of contigs, which on average were comparable to the OASES contigs but gave the highest number of gene hits in two out of four BLAST searches against different reference databases. A subsequent meta-assembly of the four contig sets resulted in larger contigs, less redundancy and a higher number of BLAST hits.
Our results document the first de novo transcriptome assembly of a non-model species using Illumina sequencing data. We show that de novo transcriptome assembly using this approach yields results useful for downstream applications, in particular if a meta-assembly of contig sets is used to increase contig quality. These results highlight the ongoing need for improvements in assembly methodology.
PMCID: PMC3128070  PMID: 21679424
next generation sequencing; short read assembly; Mollusca
9.  The salt-responsive transcriptome of chickpea roots and nodules via deepSuperSAGE 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:31.
The combination of high-throughput transcript profiling and next-generation sequencing technologies is a prerequisite for genome-wide comprehensive transcriptome analysis. Our recent innovation of deepSuperSAGE is based on an advanced SuperSAGE protocol and its combination with massively parallel pyrosequencing on Roche's 454 sequencing platform. As a demonstration of the power of this combination, we have chosen the salt stress transcriptomes of roots and nodules of the third most important legume crop chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.). While our report is more technology-oriented, it nevertheless addresses a major world-wide problem for crops generally: high salinity. Together with low temperatures and water stress, high salinity is responsible for crop losses of millions of tons of various legume (and other) crops. Continuously deteriorating environmental conditions will combine with salinity stress to further compromise crop yields. As a good example for such stress-exposed crop plants, we started to characterize salt stress responses of chickpeas on the transcriptome level.
We used deepSuperSAGE to detect early global transcriptome changes in salt-stressed chickpea. The salt stress responses of 86,919 transcripts representing 17,918 unique 26 bp deepSuperSAGE tags (UniTags) from roots of the salt-tolerant variety INRAT-93 two hours after treatment with 25 mM NaCl were characterized. Additionally, the expression of 57,281 transcripts representing 13,115 UniTags was monitored in nodules of the same plants. From a total of 144,200 analyzed 26 bp tags in roots and nodules together, 21,401 unique transcripts were identified. Of these, only 363 and 106 specific transcripts, respectively, were commonly up- or down-regulated (>3.0-fold) under salt stress in both organs, witnessing a differential organ-specific response to stress.
Profiting from recent pioneer works on massive cDNA sequencing in chickpea, more than 9,400 UniTags were able to be linked to UniProt entries. Additionally, gene ontology (GO) categories over-representation analysis enabled to filter out enriched biological processes among the differentially expressed UniTags. Subsequently, the gathered information was further cross-checked with stress-related pathways.
From several filtered pathways, here we focus exemplarily on transcripts associated with the generation and scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS), as well as on transcripts involved in Na+ homeostasis. Although both processes are already very well characterized in other plants, the information generated in the present work is of high value. Information on expression profiles and sequence similarity for several hundreds of transcripts of potential interest is now available.
This report demonstrates, that the combination of the high-throughput transcriptome profiling technology SuperSAGE with one of the next-generation sequencing platforms allows deep insights into the first molecular reactions of a plant exposed to salinity. Cross validation with recent reports enriched the information about the salt stress dynamics of more than 9,000 chickpea ESTs, and enlarged their pool of alternative transcripts isoforms.
As an example for the high resolution of the employed technology that we coin deepSuperSAGE, we demonstrate that ROS-scavenging and -generating pathways undergo strong global transcriptome changes in chickpea roots and nodules already 2 hours after onset of moderate salt stress (25 mM NaCl). Additionally, a set of more than 15 candidate transcripts are proposed to be potential components of the salt overly sensitive (SOS) pathway in chickpea.
Newly identified transcript isoforms are potential targets for breeding novel cultivars with high salinity tolerance. We demonstrate that these targets can be integrated into breeding schemes by micro-arrays and RT-PCR assays downstream of the generation of 26 bp tags by SuperSAGE.
PMCID: PMC3045889  PMID: 21320317
10.  SuperSAGE analysis of the Nicotiana attenuata transcriptome after fatty acid-amino acid elicitation (FAC): identification of early mediators of insect responses 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:66.
Plants trigger and tailor defense responses after perception of the oral secretions (OS) of attacking specialist lepidopteran larvae. Fatty acid-amino acid conjugates (FACs) in the OS of the Manduca sexta larvae are necessary and sufficient to elicit the herbivory-specific responses in Nicotiana attenuata, an annual wild tobacco species. How FACs are perceived and activate signal transduction mechanisms is unknown.
We used SuperSAGE combined with 454 sequencing to quantify the early transcriptional changes elicited by the FAC N-linolenoyl-glutamic acid (18:3-Glu) and virus induced gene silencing (VIGS) to examine the function of candidate genes in the M. sexta-N. attenuata interaction. The analysis targeted mRNAs encoding regulatory components: rare transcripts with very rapid FAC-elicited kinetics (increases within 60 and declines within 120 min). From 12,744 unique Tag sequences identified (UniTags), 430 and 117 were significantly up- and down-regulated ≥ 2.5-fold, respectively, after 18:3-Glu elicitation compared to wounding. Based on gene ontology classification, more than 25% of the annotated UniTags corresponded to putative regulatory components, including 30 transcriptional regulators and 22 protein kinases. Quantitative PCR analysis was used to analyze the FAC-dependent regulation of a subset of 27 of these UniTags and for most of them a rapid and transient induction was confirmed. Six FAC-regulated genes were functionally characterized by VIGS and two, a putative lipid phosphate phosphatase (LPP) and a protein of unknown function, were identified as important mediators of the M. sexta-N. attenuata interaction.
The analysis of the early changes in the transcriptome of N. attenuata after FAC elicitation using SuperSAGE/454 has identified regulatory genes involved in insect-specific mediated responses in plants. Moreover, it has provided a foundation for the identification of additional novel regulators associated with this process.
PMCID: PMC3095340  PMID: 20398280
11.  SuperSAGE: the drought stress-responsive transcriptome of chickpea roots 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:553.
Drought is the major constraint to increase yield in chickpea (Cicer arietinum). Improving drought tolerance is therefore of outmost importance for breeding. However, the complexity of the trait allowed only marginal progress. A solution to the current stagnation is expected from innovative molecular tools such as transcriptome analyses providing insight into stress-related gene activity, which combined with molecular markers and expression (e)QTL mapping, may accelerate knowledge-based breeding. SuperSAGE, an improved version of the serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE) technique, generating genome-wide, high-quality transcription profiles from any eukaryote, has been employed in the present study. The method produces 26 bp long fragments (26 bp tags) from defined positions in cDNAs, providing sufficient sequence information to unambiguously characterize the mRNAs. Further, SuperSAGE tags may be immediately used to produce microarrays and probes for real-time-PCR, thereby overcoming the lack of genomic tools in non-model organisms.
We applied SuperSAGE to the analysis of gene expression in chickpea roots in response to drought. To this end, we sequenced 80,238 26 bp tags representing 17,493 unique transcripts (UniTags) from drought-stressed and non-stressed control roots. A total of 7,532 (43%) UniTags were more than 2.7-fold differentially expressed, and 880 (5.0%) were regulated more than 8-fold upon stress. Their large size enabled the unambiguous annotation of 3,858 (22%) UniTags to genes or proteins in public data bases and thus to stress-response processes. We designed a microarray carrying 3,000 of these 26 bp tags. The chip data confirmed 79% of the tag-based results, whereas RT-PCR confirmed the SuperSAGE data in all cases.
This study represents the most comprehensive analysis of the drought-response transcriptome of chickpea available to date. It demonstrates that – inter alias – signal transduction, transcription regulation, osmolyte accumulation, and ROS scavenging undergo strong transcriptional remodelling in chickpea roots already 6 h after drought stress. Certain transcript isoforms characterizing these processes are potential targets for breeding for drought tolerance. We demonstrate that these can be easily accessed by micro-arrays and RT-PCR assays readily produced downstream of SuperSAGE. Our study proves that SuperSAGE owns potential for molecular breeding also in non-model crops.
PMCID: PMC2628679  PMID: 19025623
12.  Exploring local immunological adaptation of two stickleback ecotypes by experimental infection and transcriptome-wide digital gene expression analysis 
Molecular Ecology  2012;22(3):774-786.
Understanding the extent of local adaptation in natural populations and the mechanisms that allow individuals to adapt to their native environment is a major avenue in molecular ecology research. Evidence for the frequent occurrence of diverging ecotypes in species that inhabit multiple ecological habitats is accumulating, but experimental approaches to understanding the biological pathways as well as the underlying genetic mechanisms are still rare. Parasites are invoked as one of the major selective forces driving evolution and are themselves dependent on the ecological conditions in a given habitat. Immunological adaptation to local parasite communities is therefore expected to be a key component of local adaptation in natural populations. Here, we use next-generation sequencing technology to compare the transcriptome-wide response of experimentally infected three-spined sticklebacks from a lake and a river population, which are known to evolve under selection by distinct parasite communities. By comparing overall gene expression levels as well as the activation of functional pathways in response to parasite exposure, we identified potential differences between the two stickleback populations at several levels. Our results suggest locally adapted patterns of gene regulation in response to parasite exposure, which may reflect different local optima in the trade-off between the benefits and the disadvantages of mounting an immune response because of quantitative differences of the local parasite communities.
PMCID: PMC3579235  PMID: 22971109
DGE; EST; Gasterosteus aculeatus; local adaptation; three-spined stickleback; transcriptome sequencing

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