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1.  An integrated genomic and metabolomic framework for cell wall biology in rice 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):596.
Plant cell walls are complex structures that full-fill many diverse functions during plant growth and development. It is therefore not surprising that thousands of gene products are involved in cell wall synthesis and maintenance. However, functional association for the majority of these gene products remains obscure. One useful approach to infer biological associations is via transcriptional coordination, or co-expression of genes. This approach has proved useful for several biological processes. Nevertheless, combining co-expression with other large-scale measurements may improve the biological inferences.
In this study, we used a combined approach of co-expression and cell wall metabolomics to obtain new insight into cell wall synthesis in rice. We initially created a weighted gene co-expression network from publicly available datasets, and then established a comprehensive cell wall dataset by determining cell wall compositions from 29 tissues that almost cover the whole life cycle of rice. We subsequently combined the datasets through the conversion of co-expressed gene modules into eigen-vectors, representing expression profiles for the genes in the modules, and performed comparative analyses against the cell wall contents. Here, we made three major discoveries. First, we confirmed our approach by finding primary and secondary wall cellulose biosynthesis modules, respectively. Second, we found co-expressed modules that strongly correlated with re-organization of the secondary cell walls and with modifications and degradation of hemicellulosic structures. Third, we inferred that at least one module is likely to play a regulatory role in the production of G-rich lignification.
Here, we integrated transcriptomic associations and cell wall metabolism and found that certain co-expressed gene modules are positively correlated with distinct cell wall characteristics. We propose that combining multiple data-types, such as coordinated transcription and cell wall analyses, may be a useful approach to glean new insight into biological processes. The combination of multiple datasets, as illustrated here, can further improve the functional inferences that typically are generated via a single type of datasets. In addition, our data extend the typical co-expression approach to allow deeper insight into cell wall biology in rice.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-596) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4112216  PMID: 25023612
Rice; Cell wall; Co-expression network; Metabolomics
2.  Comparative mapping of chalkiness components in rice using five populations across two environments 
BMC Genetics  2014;15:49.
Chalkiness is a major constraint in rice production because it is one of the key factors determining grain quality (appearance, processing, milling, storing, eating, and cooking quality) and price. Its reduction is a major goal, and the primary purpose of this study was to dissect the genetic basis of grain chalkiness. Using five populations across two environments, we also sought to determine how many quantitative trait loci (QTL) can be consistently detected. We obtained an integrated genetic map using the data from five mapping populations and further confirmed the reliability of the identified QTL.
A total of 79 QTL associated with six chalkiness traits (chalkiness rate, white core rate, white belly rate, chalkiness area, white core area, and white belly area) were mapped on 12 chromosomes using five populations (two doubled haploid lines and three recombinant inbred lines) across two environments (Hainan in 2004 and Wuhan in 2004). The final integrated map included 430 markers; 58.3% of the QTL clustered together (QTL clusters), 71.4% of the QTL clusters were identified in two or more populations, and 36.1% of the QTL were consistently detected in the two environments. The QTL could be detected again and showed dominance (qWBR1, qWBR8, qWBR12, and qCR5) or overdominance effects (qWCR7) for the rate of the white belly or white core, respectively, and all four QTL clusters derived from Zhenshan 97 controlling white belly rate were stably and reliably identified in an F2 population.
Our results identified 79 QTL associated with six chalkiness traits using five populations across two environments and yielded an integrated genetic map, indicating most of the QTL clustered together and could be detected in different backgrounds. The identified QTL were stable and reliable in the F2 population, and they may facilitate our understanding of the QTL related to chalkiness traits in different populations and various environments, the relationships among the various chalkiness QTL, and the genetic basis for chalkiness. Thus, our results may be immediately used for map-based cloning of important QTL and in marker-assisted breeding to improve grain quality in rice breeding.
PMCID: PMC4021085  PMID: 24766995
Oryza sativa L.; QTL; Rice; Chalkiness; Comparative mapping
3.  Biomass digestibility is predominantly affected by three factors of wall polymer features distinctive in wheat accessions and rice mutants 
Wheat and rice are important food crops with enormous biomass residues for biofuels. However, lignocellulosic recalcitrance becomes a crucial factor on biomass process. Plant cell walls greatly determine biomass recalcitrance, thus it is essential to identify their key factors on lignocellulose saccharification. Despite it has been reported about cell wall factors on biomass digestions, little is known in wheat and rice. In this study, we analyzed nine typical pairs of wheat and rice samples that exhibited distinct cell wall compositions, and identified three major factors of wall polymer features that affected biomass digestibility.
Based on cell wall compositions, ten wheat accessions and three rice mutants were classified into three distinct groups each with three typical pairs. In terms of group I that displayed single wall polymer alternations in wheat, we found that three wall polymer levels (cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin) each had a negative effect on biomass digestibility at similar rates under pretreatments of NaOH and H2SO4 with three concentrations. However, analysis of six pairs of wheat and rice samples in groups II and III that each exhibited a similar cell wall composition, indicated that three wall polymer levels were not the major factors on biomass saccharification. Furthermore, in-depth detection of the wall polymer features distinctive in rice mutants, demonstrated that biomass digestibility was remarkably affected either negatively by cellulose crystallinity (CrI) of raw biomass materials, or positively by both Ara substitution degree of non-KOH-extractable hemicelluloses (reverse Xyl/Ara) and p-coumaryl alcohol relative proportion of KOH-extractable lignin (H/G). Correlation analysis indicated that Ara substitution degree and H/G ratio negatively affected cellulose crystallinity for high biomass enzymatic digestion. It was also suggested to determine whether Ara and H monomer have an interlinking with cellulose chains in the future.
Using nine typical pairs of wheat and rice samples having distinct cell wall compositions and wide biomass saccharification, Ara substitution degree and monolignin H proportion have been revealed to be the dominant factors positively determining biomass digestibility upon various chemical pretreatments. The results demonstrated the potential of genetic modification of plant cell walls for high biomass saccharification in bioenergy crops.
PMCID: PMC3878626  PMID: 24341349
Cell wall; Cellulose crystallinity; Arabinose substitution degree; p-coumaryl alcohol proportion; Biomass digestibility; Chemical pretreatment; Wheat; Rice
4.  Global Identification of Multiple OsGH9 Family Members and Their Involvement in Cellulose Crystallinity Modification in Rice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e50171.
Plant glycoside hydrolase family 9 (GH9) comprises typical endo-β-1,4-glucanase (EGases, EC3.2.1.4). Although GH9A (KORRIGAN) family genes have been reported to be involved in cellulose biosynthesis in plants, much remains unknown about other GH9 subclasses. In this study, we observed a global gene co-expression profiling and conducted a correlation analysis between OsGH9 and OsCESA among 66 tissues covering most periods of life cycles in 2 rice varieties. Our results showed that OsGH9A3 and B5 possessed an extremely high co-expression with OsCESA1, 3, and 8 typical for cellulose biosynthesis in rice. Using two distinct rice non-GH9 mutants and wild type, we performed integrative analysis of gene expression level by qRT-PCR, cellulase activities in situ and in vitro, and lignocellulose crystallinity index (CrI) in four internodes of stem tissues. For the first time, OsGH9B1, 3, and 16 were characterized with the potential role in lignocellulose crystallinity alteration in rice, whereas OsGH9A3 and B5 were suggested for cellulose biosynthesis. In addition, phylogenetic analysis and gene co-expression comparison revealed GH9 function similarity in Arabidopsis and rice. Hence, the data can provide insights into GH9 function in plants and offer the potential strategy for genetic manipulation of plant cell wall using the five aforementioned novel OsGH9 genes.
PMCID: PMC3537678  PMID: 23308094
5.  Expression profiling and integrative analysis of the CESA/CSL superfamily in rice 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:282.
The cellulose synthase and cellulose synthase-like gene superfamily (CESA/CSL) is proposed to encode enzymes for cellulose and non-cellulosic matrix polysaccharide synthesis in plants. Although the rice (Oryza sativa L.) genome has been sequenced for a few years, the global expression profiling patterns and functions of the OsCESA/CSL superfamily remain largely unknown.
A total of 45 identified members of OsCESA/CSL were classified into two clusters based on phylogeny and motif constitution. Duplication events contributed largely to the expansion of this superfamily, with Cluster I and II mainly attributed to tandem and segmental duplication, respectively. With microarray data of 33 tissue samples covering the entire life cycle of rice, fairly high OsCESA gene expression and rather variable OsCSL expression were observed. While some members from each CSL family (A1, C9, D2, E1, F6 and H1) were expressed in all tissues examined, many of OsCSL genes were expressed in specific tissues (stamen and radicles). The expression pattern of OsCESA/CSL and OsBC1L which extensively co-expressed with OsCESA/CSL can be divided into three major groups with ten subgroups, each showing a distinct co-expression in tissues representing typically distinct cell wall constitutions. In particular, OsCESA1, -3 & -8 and OsCESA4, -7 & -9 were strongly co-expressed in tissues typical of primary and secondary cell walls, suggesting that they form as a cellulose synthase complex; these results are similar to the findings in Arabidopsis. OsCESA5/OsCESA6 is likely partially redundant with OsCESA3 for OsCESA complex organization in the specific tissues (plumule and radicle). Moreover, the phylogenetic comparison in rice, Arabidopsis and other species can provide clues for the prediction of orthologous gene expression patterns.
The study characterized the CESA/CSL of rice using an integrated approach comprised of phylogeny, transcriptional profiling and co-expression analyses. These investigations revealed very useful clues on the major roles of CESA/CSL, their potentially functional complement and their associations for appropriate cell wall synthesis in higher plants.
PMCID: PMC3022907  PMID: 21167079
6.  OsAAP6 functions as an important regulator of grain protein content and nutritional quality in rice 
Nature Communications  2014;5:4847.
Grains from cereals contribute an important source of protein to human food, and grain protein content (GPC) is an important determinant of nutritional quality in cereals. Here we show that the quantitative trait locus (QTL) qPC1 in rice controls GPC by regulating the synthesis and accumulation of glutelins, prolamins, globulins, albumins and starch. qPC1 encodes a putative amino acid transporter OsAAP6, which functions as a positive regulator of GPC in rice, such that higher expression of OsAAP6 is correlated with higher GPC. OsAAP6 greatly enhances root absorption of a range of amino acids and has effects on the distribution of various amino acids. Two common variations in the potential cis-regulatory elements of the OsAAP6 5′-untranslated region seem to be associated with GPC diversity mainly in indica cultivars. Our results represent the first step toward unravelling the mechanism of regulation underlying natural variation of GPC in rice.
Grain protein content (GPC) contributes to the nutritional quality of cereals. Here, the authors show that the OsAAP6 quantitative trait locus in rice controls GPC by regulating the synthesis and accumulation of several grain storage proteins and starch.
PMCID: PMC4175581  PMID: 25209128

Results 1-6 (6)