The rehydration transcriptome of the desiccation-tolerant bryophyte Tortula ruralis: transcript classification and analysis

Oliver, Melvin J.; Dowd, Scot E.; Zaragoza, Joaquin; Mauget, Steven A.; Payton, Paxton R.
January 2004
BMC Genomics;2004, Vol. 5, p1
Academic Journal
Background: The cellular response of plants to water-deficits has both economic and evolutionary importance directly affecting plant productivity in agriculture and plant survival in the natural environment. Genes induced by water-deficit stress have been successfully enumerated in plants that are relatively sensitive to cellular dehydration, however we have little knowledge as to the adaptive role of these genes in establishing tolerance to water loss at the cellular level. Our approach to address this problem has been to investigate the genetic responses of plants that are capable of tolerating extremes of dehydration, in particular the desiccation-tolerant bryophyte, Tortula ruralis. To establish a sound basis for characterizing the Tortula genome in regards to desiccation tolerance, we analyzed 10,368 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from rehydrated rapid-dried Tortula gametophytes, a stage previously determined to exhibit the maximum stress induced change in gene expression. Results: The 10, 368 ESTs formed 5,563 EST clusters (contig groups representing individual genes) of which 3,321 (59.7%) exhibited similarity to genes present in the public databases and 2,242 were categorized as unknowns based on protein homology scores. The 3,321 clusters were classified by function using the Gene Ontology (GO) hierarchy and the KEGG database. The results indicate that the transcriptome contains a diverse population of transcripts that reflects, as expected, a period of metabolic upheaval in the gametophyte cells. Much of the emphasis within the transcriptome is centered on the protein synthetic machinery, ion and metabolite transport, and membrane biosynthesis and repair. Rehydrating gametophytes also have an abundance of transcripts that code for enzymes involved in oxidative stress metabolism and phosphorylating activities. The functional classifications reflect a remarkable consistency with what we have previously established with regards to the metabolic activities that are important in the recovery of the gametophytes from desiccation. A comparison of the GO distribution of Tortula clusters with an identical analysis of 9,981 clusters from the desiccation sensitive bryophyte species Physcomitrella patens, revealed, and accentuated, the differences between stressed and unstressed transcriptomes. Cross species sequence comparisons indicated that on the whole the Tortula clusters were more closely related to those from Physcomitrella than Arabidopsis (complete genome BLASTx comparison) although because of the differences in the databases there were more high scoring matches to the Arabidopsis sequences. The most abundant transcripts contained within the Tortula ESTs encode Late Embryogenesis Abundant (LEA) proteins that are normally associated with drying plant tissues. This suggests that LEAs may also play a role in recovery from desiccation when water is reintroduced into a dried tissue. Conclusion: The establishment of a rehydration EST collection for Tortula ruralis, an important plant model for plant stress responses and vegetative desiccation tolerance, is an important step in understanding the genome level response to cellular dehydration. The type of transcript analysis performed here has laid the foundation for more detailed functional and genome level analyses of the genes involved in desiccation tolerance in plants.


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