De novo assembly and characterization of transcriptome using Illumina paired-end sequencing and identification of CesA gene in ramie (Boehmeria nivea L. Gaud)

Ramie fiber, extracted from vegetative organ stem bast, is one of the most important natural fibers. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of the vegetative growth of the ramie and the formation and development of bast fiber is essential for improving the yield and quality of the ramie fiber.

However, only 418 expressed tag sequences (ESTs) of ramie deposited in public databases are far from sufficient to understand the molecular mechanisms. Thus, high-throughput transcriptome sequencing is essentialto generate enormous ramie transcript sequences for the purpose of gene discovery, especially genes such as the cellulose synthase (CesA) gene.

Results: Using Illumina paired-end sequencing, about 53 million sequencing reads were generated.

De novo assembly yielded 43,990 unigenes with an average length of 824 bp. By sequence similarity searching for known proteins, a total of 34,192 (77.7%) genes were annotated for their function.

Out of these annotated unigenes, 16,050 and 13,042 unigenes were assigned to gene ontology and clusters of orthologous group, respectively. Searching against the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes Pathway database (KEGG) indicated that 19,846 unigenes were mapped to 126 KEGG pathways, and 565 genes were assigned to starch and sucrose metabolic pathway which was related with cellulose biosynthesis.

Additionally, 51 CesA genes involved in cellulose biosynthesis were identified. Analysis of tissue-specific expression pattern of the 51 CesA genes revealed that there were 36 genes with a relatively high expression levels in the stem bark, which suggests that they are most likely responsible for the biosynthesis of bast fiber.

Conclusion: To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to characterize the ramie transcriptome and the substantial amount of transcripts obtained will accelerate the understanding of the ramie vegetative growth and development mechanism.

Moreover, discovery of the 36 CesA genes with relatively high expression levels in the stem bark will present an opportunity to understand the ramie bast fiber formation and development mechanisms.

Published on: 2013-02-26

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