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1.  Chestnut resistance to the blight disease: insights from transcriptome analysis 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:38.
A century ago, Chestnut Blight Disease (CBD) devastated the American chestnut. Backcross breeding has been underway to introgress resistance from Chinese chestnut into surviving American chestnut genotypes. Development of genomic resources for the family Fagaceae, has focused in this project on Castanea mollissima Blume (Chinese chestnut) and Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh (American chestnut) to aid in the backcross breeding effort and in the eventual identification of blight resistance genes through genomic sequencing and map based cloning. A previous study reported partial characterization of the transcriptomes from these two species. Here, further analyses of a larger dataset and assemblies including both 454 and capillary sequences were performed and defense related genes with differential transcript abundance (GDTA) in canker versus healthy stem tissues were identified.
Over one and a half million cDNA reads were assembled into 34,800 transcript contigs from American chestnut and 48,335 transcript contigs from Chinese chestnut. Chestnut cDNA showed higher coding sequence similarity to genes in other woody plants than in herbaceous species. The number of genes tagged, the length of coding sequences, and the numbers of tagged members within gene families showed that the cDNA dataset provides a good resource for studying the American and Chinese chestnut transcriptomes. In silico analysis of transcript abundance identified hundreds of GDTA in canker versus healthy stem tissues. A significant number of additional DTA genes involved in the defense-response not reported in a previous study were identified here. These DTA genes belong to various pathways involving cell wall biosynthesis, reactive oxygen species (ROS), salicylic acid (SA), ethylene, jasmonic acid (JA), abscissic acid (ABA), and hormone signalling. DTA genes were also identified in the hypersensitive response and programmed cell death (PCD) pathways. These DTA genes are candidates for host resistance to the chestnut blight fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica.
Our data allowed the identification of many genes and gene network candidates for host resistance to the chestnut blight fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica. The similar set of GDTAs in American chestnut and Chinese chestnut suggests that the variation in sensitivity to this pathogen between these species may be the result of different timing and amplitude of the response of the two to the pathogen infection. Resources developed in this study are useful for functional genomics, comparative genomics, resistance breeding and phylogenetics in the Fagaceae.
PMCID: PMC3376029  PMID: 22429310
2.  Phylogeny and expression profiling of CAD and CAD-like genes in hybrid Populus (P. deltoides × P. nigra): evidence from herbivore damage for subfunctionalization and functional divergence 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:100.
Cinnamyl Alcohol Dehydrogenase (CAD) proteins function in lignin biosynthesis and play a critical role in wood development and plant defense against stresses. Previous phylogenetic studies did not include genes from seedless plants and did not reflect the deep evolutionary history of this gene family. We reanalyzed the phylogeny of CAD and CAD-like genes using a representative dataset including lycophyte and bryophyte sequences. Many CAD/CAD-like genes do not seem to be associated with wood development under normal growth conditions. To gain insight into the functional evolution of CAD/CAD-like genes, we analyzed their expression in Populus plant tissues in response to feeding damage by gypsy moth larvae (Lymantria dispar L.). Expression of CAD/CAD-like genes in Populus tissues (xylem, leaves, and barks) was analyzed in herbivore-treated and non-treated plants by real time quantitative RT-PCR.
CAD family genes were distributed in three classes based on sequence conservation. All the three classes are represented by seedless as well as seed plants, including the class of bona fide lignin pathway genes. The expression of some CAD/CAD-like genes that are not associated with xylem development were induced following herbivore damage in leaves, while other genes were induced in only bark or xylem tissues. Five of the CAD/CAD-like genes, however, showed a shift in expression from one tissue to another between non-treated and herbivore-treated plants. Systemic expression of the CAD/CAD-like genes was generally suppressed.
Our results indicated a correlation between the evolution of the CAD gene family and lignin and that the three classes of genes may have evolved in the ancestor of land plants. Our results also suggest that the CAD/CAD-like genes have evolved a diversity of expression profiles and potentially different functions, but that they are nonetheless co-regulated under stress conditions.
PMCID: PMC2887455  PMID: 20509918
3.  Comparison of the transcriptomes of American chestnut (Castanea dentata) and Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) in response to the chestnut blight infection 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:51.
American chestnut (Castanea dentata) was devastated by an exotic pathogen in the beginning of the twentieth century. This chestnut blight is caused by Cryphonectria parasitica, a fungus that infects stem tissues and kills the trees by girdling them. Because of the great economic and ecological value of this species, significant efforts have been made over the century to combat this disease, but it wasn't until recently that a focused genomics approach was initiated. Prior to the Genomic Tool Development for the Fagaceae project, genomic resources available in public databases for this species were limited to a few hundred ESTs. To identify genes involved in resistance to C. parasitica, we have sequenced the transcriptome from fungal infected and healthy stem tissues collected from blight-sensitive American chestnut and blight-resistant Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) trees using ultra high throughput pyrosequencing.
We produced over a million 454 reads, totaling over 250 million bp, from which we generated 40,039 and 28,890 unigenes in total from C. mollissima and C. dentata respectively.
The functions of the unigenes, from GO annotation, cover a diverse set of molecular functions and biological processes, among which we identified a large number of genes associated with resistance to stresses and response to biotic stimuli. In silico expression analyses showed that many of the stress response unigenes were expressed more in canker tissues versus healthy stem tissues in both American and Chinese chestnut. Comparative analysis also identified genes belonging to different pathways of plant defense against biotic stresses that are differentially expressed in either American or Chinese chestnut canker tissues.
Our study resulted in the identification of a large set of cDNA unigenes from American chestnut and Chinese chestnut. The ESTs and unigenes from this study constitute an important resource to the scientific community interested in the discovery of genes involved in various biological processes in Chestnut and other species. The identification of many defense-related genes differentially expressed in canker vs. healthy stem in chestnuts provides many new candidate genes for developing resistance to the chestnut blight and for studying pathways involved in responses of trees to necrotrophic pathogens. We also identified several candidate genes that may underline the difference in resistance to Cryphonectria parasitica between American chestnut and Chinese chestnut.
PMCID: PMC2688492  PMID: 19426529
4.  The cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase gene family in Populus: phylogeny, organization, and expression 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:26.
Lignin is a phenolic heteropolymer in secondary cell walls that plays a major role in the development of plants and their defense against pathogens. The biosynthesis of monolignols, which represent the main component of lignin involves many enzymes. The cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase (CAD) is a key enzyme in lignin biosynthesis as it catalyzes the final step in the synthesis of monolignols. The CAD gene family has been studied in Arabidopsis thaliana, Oryza sativa and partially in Populus. This is the first comprehensive study on the CAD gene family in woody plants including genome organization, gene structure, phylogeny across land plant lineages, and expression profiling in Populus.
The phylogenetic analyses showed that CAD genes fall into three main classes (clades), one of which is represented by CAD sequences from gymnosperms and angiosperms. The other two clades are represented by sequences only from angiosperms. All Populus CAD genes, except PoptrCAD 4 are distributed in Class II and Class III. CAD genes associated with xylem development (PoptrCAD 4 and PoptrCAD 10) belong to Class I and Class II. Most of the CAD genes are physically distributed on duplicated blocks and are still in conserved locations on the homeologous duplicated blocks. Promoter analysis of CAD genes revealed several motifs involved in gene expression modulation under various biological and physiological processes. The CAD genes showed different expression patterns in poplar with only two genes preferentially expressed in xylem tissues during lignin biosynthesis.
The phylogeny of CAD genes suggests that the radiation of this gene family may have occurred in the early ancestry of angiosperms. Gene distribution on the chromosomes of Populus showed that both large scale and tandem duplications contributed significantly to the CAD gene family expansion. The duplication of several CAD genes seems to be associated with a genome duplication event that happened in the ancestor of Salicaceae. Phylogenetic analyses associated with expression profiling and results from previous studies suggest that CAD genes involved in wood development belong to Class I and Class II. The other CAD genes from Class II and Class III may function in plant tissues under biotic stresses. The conservation of most duplicated CAD genes, the differential distribution of motifs in their promoter regions, and the divergence of their expression profiles in various tissues of Populus plants indicate that genes in the CAD family have evolved tissue-specialized expression profiles and may have divergent functions.
PMCID: PMC2662859  PMID: 19267902
5.  Floral gene resources from basal angiosperms for comparative genomics research 
BMC Plant Biology  2005;5:5.
The Floral Genome Project was initiated to bridge the genomic gap between the most broadly studied plant model systems. Arabidopsis and rice, although now completely sequenced and under intensive comparative genomic investigation, are separated by at least 125 million years of evolutionary time, and cannot in isolation provide a comprehensive perspective on structural and functional aspects of flowering plant genome dynamics. Here we discuss new genomic resources available to the scientific community, comprising cDNA libraries and Expressed Sequence Tag (EST) sequences for a suite of phylogenetically basal angiosperms specifically selected to bridge the evolutionary gaps between model plants and provide insights into gene content and genome structure in the earliest flowering plants.
Random sequencing of cDNAs from representatives of phylogenetically important eudicot, non-grass monocot, and gymnosperm lineages has so far (as of 12/1/04) generated 70,514 ESTs and 48,170 assembled unigenes. Efficient sorting of EST sequences into putative gene families based on whole Arabidopsis/rice proteome comparison has permitted ready identification of cDNA clones for finished sequencing. Preliminarily, (i) proportions of functional categories among sequenced floral genes seem representative of the entire Arabidopsis transcriptome, (ii) many known floral gene homologues have been captured, and (iii) phylogenetic analyses of ESTs are providing new insights into the process of gene family evolution in relation to the origin and diversification of the angiosperms.
Initial comparisons illustrate the utility of the EST data sets toward discovery of the basic floral transcriptome. These first findings also afford the opportunity to address a number of conspicuous evolutionary genomic questions, including reproductive organ transcriptome overlap between angiosperms and gymnosperms, genome-wide duplication history, lineage-specific gene duplication and functional divergence, and analyses of adaptive molecular evolution. Since not all genes in the floral transcriptome will be associated with flowering, these EST resources will also be of interest to plant scientists working on other functions, such as photosynthesis, signal transduction, and metabolic pathways.
PMCID: PMC1083416  PMID: 15799777

Results 1-5 (5)