July 19, 2019  |  

Long read sequencing technology to solve complex genomic regions assembly in plants

Background: Numerous completed or on-going whole genome sequencing projects have highlighted the fact that obtaining a high quality genome sequence is necessary to address comparative genomics questions such as structural variations among genotypes and gain or loss of specific function. Despite the spectacular progress that has been made in sequencing technologies, obtaining accurate and reliable data is still a challenge, both at the whole genome scale and when targeting specific genomic regions. These problems are even more noticeable for complex plant genomes. Most plant genomes are known to be particularly challenging due to their size, high density of repetitive elements and various levels of ploidy. To overcome these problems, we have developed a strategy to reduce genome complexity by using the large insert BAC libraries combined with next generation sequencing technologies. Results: We compared two different technologies (Roche-454 and Pacific Biosciences PacBio RS II) to sequence pools of BAC clones in order to obtain the best quality sequence. We targeted nine BAC clones from different species (maize, wheat, strawberry, barley, sugarcane and sunflower) known to be complex in terms of sequence assembly. We sequenced the pools of the nine BAC clones with both technologies. We compared assembly results and highlighted differences due to the sequencing technologies used. Conclusions: We demonstrated that the long reads obtained with the PacBio RS II technology serve to obtain a better and more reliable assembly, notably by preventing errors due to duplicated or repetitive sequences in the same region.

July 19, 2019  |  

Deletion-bias in DNA double-strand break repair differentially contributes to plant genome shrinkage.

In order to prevent genome instability, cells need to be protected by a number of repair mechanisms, including DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair. The extent to which DSB repair, biased towards deletions or insertions, contributes to evolutionary diversification of genome size is still under debate. We analyzed mutation spectra in Arabidopsis thaliana and in barley (Hordeum vulgare) by PacBio sequencing of three DSB-targeted loci each, uncovering repair via gene conversion, single strand annealing (SSA) or nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ). Furthermore, phylogenomic comparisons between A. thaliana and two related species were used to detect naturally occurring deletions during Arabidopsis evolution. Arabidopsis thaliana revealed significantly more and larger deletions after DSB repair than barley, and barley displayed more and larger insertions. Arabidopsis displayed a clear net loss of DNA after DSB repair, mainly via SSA and NHEJ. Barley revealed a very weak net loss of DNA, apparently due to less active break-end resection and easier copying of template sequences into breaks. Comparative phylogenomics revealed several footprints of SSA in the A. thaliana genome. Quantitative assessment of DNA gain and loss through DSB repair processes suggests deletion-biased DSB repair causing ongoing genome shrinking in A. thaliana, whereas genome size in barley remains nearly constant.© 2017 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2017 New Phytologist Trust.

July 7, 2019  |  

Map-based cloning of the fertility restoration locus Rfm1 in cultivated barley (Hordeum vulgare)

Hybridization technology has proven valuable in enhancing yields in many crops, but was only recently adopted in the small grain cereals. Hybrid varieties in barley (Hordeum vulgare) rely on the cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) system msm1 derived from Hordeum vulgare ssp. spontaneum. The major restorer gene described for the msm1 system is known as Rfm1 and maps to the top of chromosome 6H. To gain further insight into mechanisms underlying male fertility restoration in barley, we used a map-based cloning approach to identify the nuclear gene involved in the restoration mechanism of this hybridization system. Taking advantage of the available genomic resources in barley in combination with a custom-made non-gridded BAC library developed from a restorer line, we cloned and sequenced the Rfm1 restorer locus. The characterization and annotation of the nucleotide sequence for the Rfm1 restorer allele allowed for the identification of the candidate gene for Rfm1. The Rfm1 locus carries a tandem repeat of a gene encoding a pentatricopeptide repeat (PPR) protein. Surprisingly, Rfm1 belongs to the PLS-DYW subfamily of PPR genes known for their involvement in RNA editing in plants organelles, but that to date have not been identified as restorer genes.

July 7, 2019  |  

The Cer-cqu gene cluster determines three key players in a ß-diketone synthase polyketide pathway synthesizing aliphatics in epicuticular waxes.

Aliphatic compounds on plant surfaces, called epicuticular waxes, are the first line of defense against pathogens and pests, contribute to reducing water loss and determine other important phenotypes. Aliphatics can form crystals affecting light refraction, resulting in a color change and allowing identification of mutants in their synthesis or transport. The present study discloses three such Eceriferum (cer) genes in barley – Cer-c, Cer-q and Cer-u – known to be tightly linked and functioning in a biochemical pathway forming dominating amounts of ß-diketone and hydroxy-ß-diketones plus some esterified alkan-2-ols. These aliphatics are present in many Triticeae as well as dicotyledons such as Eucalyptus and Dianthus. Recently developed genomic resources and mapping populations in barley defined these genes to a small region on chromosome arm 2HS. Exploiting Cer-c and -u potential functions pinpointed five candidates, of which three were missing in apparent cer-cqu triple mutants. Sequencing more than 50 independent mutants for each gene confirmed their identification. Cer-c is a chalcone synthase-like polyketide synthase, designated diketone synthase (DKS), Cer-q is a lipase/carboxyl transferase and Cer-u is a P450 enzyme. All were highly expressed in pertinent leaf sheath tissue of wild type. A physical map revealed the order Cer-c, Cer-u, Cer-q with the flanking genes 101kb apart, confirming they are a gene cluster, Cer-cqu. Homology-based modeling suggests that many of the mutant alleles affect overall protein structure or specific active site residues. The rich diversity of identified mutations will facilitate future studies of three key enzymes involved in synthesis of plant apoplast waxes. © The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology.

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