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1.  The transcriptome landscape of early maize meiosis 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:118.
A major step in the higher plant life cycle is the decision to leave the mitotic cell cycle and begin the progression through the meiotic cell cycle that leads to the formation of gametes. The molecular mechanisms that regulate this transition and early meiosis remain largely unknown. To gain insight into gene expression features during the initiation of meiotic recombination, we profiled early prophase I meiocytes from maize (Zea mays) using capillary collection to isolate meiocytes, followed by RNA-seq.
We detected ~2,000 genes as preferentially expressed during early meiotic prophase, most of them uncharacterized. Functional analysis uncovered the importance of several cellular processes in early meiosis. Processes significantly enriched in isolated meiocytes included proteolysis, protein targeting, chromatin modification and the regulation of redox homeostasis. The most significantly up-regulated processes in meiocytes were processes involved in carbohydrate metabolism. Consistent with this, many mitochondrial genes were up-regulated in meiocytes, including nuclear- and mitochondrial-encoded genes. The data were validated with real-time PCR and in situ hybridization and also used to generate a candidate maize homologue list of known meiotic genes from Arabidopsis.
Taken together, we present a high-resolution analysis of the transcriptome landscape in early meiosis of an important crop plant, providing support for choosing genes for detailed characterization of recombination initiation and regulation of early meiosis. Our data also reveal an important connection between meiotic processes and altered/increased energy production.
PMCID: PMC4032173  PMID: 24885405
Maize; Meiosis; Meiocytes; Mitochondria; RNA-seq; Transcriptome
2.  Characterization of a set of novel meiotically-active promoters in Arabidopsis 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:104.
Homologous recombination, together with selection, laid the foundation for traditional plant breeding. The recombination process that takes place during meiotic cell division is crucial for the creation of novel variations of highly desired traits by breeders. Gaining control over this process is important for molecular breeding to achieve more precise, large-scale and quicker plant improvement. As conventional ubiquitous promoters are neither tissue-specific nor efficient in driving gene expression in meiocytes, promoters with high meiotic activities are potential candidates for manipulating the recombination process. So far, only a few meiotically-active promoters have been reported. Recently developed techniques to profile the transcriptome landscape of isolated meiocytes provided the means to discover promoters from genes that are actively expressed in meiosis.
In a screen for meiotically-active promoters, we examined ten promoter sequences that are associated with novel meiotic candidate genes. Each promoter was tested by expressing a GFP reporter gene in Arabidopsis. Characterization of regulatory regions revealed that these meiotically-active promoters possessed conserved motifs and motif arrangement. Some of the promoters unite optimal properties which are invaluable for meiosis-directed studies such as delivering specific gene expression in early meiosis I and/or meiosis II. Furthermore, the examination of homologs of the corresponding genes within green plants points to a great potential of applying the information from Arabidopsis to other species, especially crop plants.
We identified ten novel meiotically-active promoters; which, along with their homologs, are prime candidates to specifically drive gene expression during meiosis in plants and can thus provide important tools for meiosis study and crop breeding.
PMCID: PMC3462685  PMID: 22776406
Meiosis; Homologous recombination; Promoter; GFP; cis-regulatory elements; Plant molecular breeding
3.  Development and characterization of BAC-end sequence derived SSRs, and their incorporation into a new higher density genetic map for cultivated peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.) 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:10.
Cultivated peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.) is an important crop worldwide, valued for its edible oil and digestible protein. It has a very narrow genetic base that may well derive from a relatively recent single polyploidization event. Accordingly molecular markers have low levels of polymorphism and the number of polymorphic molecular markers available for cultivated peanut is still limiting.
Here, we report a large set of BAC-end sequences (BES), use them for developing SSR (BES-SSR) markers, and apply them in genetic linkage mapping. The majority of BESs had no detectable homology to known genes (49.5%) followed by sequences with similarity to known genes (44.3%), and miscellaneous sequences (6.2%) such as transposable element, retroelement, and organelle sequences. A total of 1,424 SSRs were identified from 36,435 BESs. Among these identified SSRs, dinucleotide (47.4%) and trinucleotide (37.1%) SSRs were predominant. The new set of 1,152 SSRs as well as about 4,000 published or unpublished SSRs were screened against two parents of a mapping population, generating 385 polymorphic loci. A genetic linkage map was constructed, consisting of 318 loci onto 21 linkage groups and covering a total of 1,674.4 cM, with an average distance of 5.3 cM between adjacent loci. Two markers related to resistance gene homologs (RGH) were mapped to two different groups, thus anchoring 1 RGH-BAC contig and 1 singleton.
The SSRs mined from BESs will be of use in further molecular analysis of the peanut genome, providing a novel set of markers, genetically anchoring BAC clones, and incorporating gene sequences into a linkage map. This will aid in the identification of markers linked to genes of interest and map-based cloning.
PMCID: PMC3298471  PMID: 22260238
4.  Analysis of BAC-end sequences (BESs) and development of BES-SSR markers for genetic mapping and hybrid purity assessment in pigeonpea (Cajanus spp.) 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:56.
Pigeonpea [Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.] is an important legume crop of rainfed agriculture. Despite of concerted research efforts directed to pigeonpea improvement, stagnated productivity of pigeonpea during last several decades may be accounted to prevalence of various biotic and abiotic constraints and the situation is exacerbated by availability of inadequate genomic resources to undertake any molecular breeding programme for accelerated crop improvement. With the objective of enhancing genomic resources for pigeonpea, this study reports for the first time, large scale development of SSR markers from BAC-end sequences and their subsequent use for genetic mapping and hybridity testing in pigeonpea.
A set of 88,860 BAC (bacterial artificial chromosome)-end sequences (BESs) were generated after constructing two BAC libraries by using HindIII (34,560 clones) and BamHI (34,560 clones) restriction enzymes. Clustering based on sequence identity of BESs yielded a set of >52K non-redundant sequences, comprising 35 Mbp or >4% of the pigeonpea genome. These sequences were analyzed to develop annotation lists and subdivide the BESs into genome fractions (e.g., genes, retroelements, transpons and non-annotated sequences). Parallel analysis of BESs for microsatellites or simple sequence repeats (SSRs) identified 18,149 SSRs, from which a set of 6,212 SSRs were selected for further analysis. A total of 3,072 novel SSR primer pairs were synthesized and tested for length polymorphism on a set of 22 parental genotypes of 13 mapping populations segregating for traits of interest. In total, we identified 842 polymorphic SSR markers that will have utility in pigeonpea improvement. Based on these markers, the first SSR-based genetic map comprising of 239 loci was developed for this previously uncharacterized genome. Utility of developed SSR markers was also demonstrated by identifying a set of 42 markers each for two hybrids (ICPH 2671 and ICPH 2438) for genetic purity assessment in commercial hybrid breeding programme.
In summary, while BAC libraries and BESs should be useful for genomics studies, BES-SSR markers, and the genetic map should be very useful for linking the genetic map with a future physical map as well as for molecular breeding in pigeonpea.
PMCID: PMC3079640  PMID: 21447154
5.  Meiosis-specific gene discovery in plants: RNA-Seq applied to isolated Arabidopsis male meiocytes 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:280.
Meiosis is a critical process in the reproduction and life cycle of flowering plants in which homologous chromosomes pair, synapse, recombine and segregate. Understanding meiosis will not only advance our knowledge of the mechanisms of genetic recombination, but also has substantial applications in crop improvement. Despite the tremendous progress in the past decade in other model organisms (e.g., Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Drosophila melanogaster), the global identification of meiotic genes in flowering plants has remained a challenge due to the lack of efficient methods to collect pure meiocytes for analyzing the temporal and spatial gene expression patterns during meiosis, and for the sensitive identification and quantitation of novel genes.
A high-throughput approach to identify meiosis-specific genes by combining isolated meiocytes, RNA-Seq, bioinformatic and statistical analysis pipelines was developed. By analyzing the studied genes that have a meiosis function, a pipeline for identifying meiosis-specific genes has been defined. More than 1,000 genes that are specifically or preferentially expressed in meiocytes have been identified as candidate meiosis-specific genes. A group of 55 genes that have mitochondrial genome origins and a significant number of transposable element (TE) genes (1,036) were also found to have up-regulated expression levels in meiocytes.
These findings advance our understanding of meiotic genes, gene expression and regulation, especially the transcript profiles of MGI genes and TE genes, and provide a framework for functional analysis of genes in meiosis.
PMCID: PMC3018465  PMID: 21167045
6.  RNA-Seq Atlas of Glycine max: A guide to the soybean transcriptome 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:160.
Next generation sequencing is transforming our understanding of transcriptomes. It can determine the expression level of transcripts with a dynamic range of over six orders of magnitude from multiple tissues, developmental stages or conditions. Patterns of gene expression provide insight into functions of genes with unknown annotation.
The RNA Seq-Atlas presented here provides a record of high-resolution gene expression in a set of fourteen diverse tissues. Hierarchical clustering of transcriptional profiles for these tissues suggests three clades with similar profiles: aerial, underground and seed tissues. We also investigate the relationship between gene structure and gene expression and find a correlation between gene length and expression. Additionally, we find dramatic tissue-specific gene expression of both the most highly-expressed genes and the genes specific to legumes in seed development and nodule tissues. Analysis of the gene expression profiles of over 2,000 genes with preferential gene expression in seed suggests there are more than 177 genes with functional roles that are involved in the economically important seed filling process. Finally, the Seq-atlas also provides a means of evaluating existing gene model annotations for the Glycine max genome.
This RNA-Seq atlas extends the analyses of previous gene expression atlases performed using Affymetrix GeneChip technology and provides an example of new methods to accommodate the increase in transcriptome data obtained from next generation sequencing. Data contained within this RNA-Seq atlas of Glycine max can be explored at
PMCID: PMC3017786  PMID: 20687943
7.  Complementary genetic and genomic approaches help characterize the linkage group I seed protein QTL in soybean 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:41.
The nutritional and economic value of many crops is effectively a function of seed protein and oil content. Insight into the genetic and molecular control mechanisms involved in the deposition of these constituents in the developing seed is needed to guide crop improvement. A quantitative trait locus (QTL) on Linkage Group I (LG I) of soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merrill) has a striking effect on seed protein content.
A soybean near-isogenic line (NIL) pair contrasting in seed protein and differing in an introgressed genomic segment containing the LG I protein QTL was used as a resource to demarcate the QTL region and to study variation in transcript abundance in developing seed. The LG I QTL region was delineated to less than 8.4 Mbp of genomic sequence on chromosome 20. Using Affymetrix® Soy GeneChip and high-throughput Illumina® whole transcriptome sequencing platforms, 13 genes displaying significant seed transcript accumulation differences between NILs were identified that mapped to the 8.4 Mbp LG I protein QTL region.
This study identifies gene candidates at the LG I protein QTL for potential involvement in the regulation of protein content in the soybean seed. The results demonstrate the power of complementary approaches to characterize contrasting NILs and provide genome-wide transcriptome insight towards understanding seed biology and the soybean genome.
PMCID: PMC2848761  PMID: 20199683

Results 1-7 (7)