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This article is part of the supplement: Ninth Annual MCBIOS Conference. Dealing with the Omics Data Deluge

Open Access Proceedings

Comparative genomic analysis of NAC transcriptional factors to dissect the regulatory mechanisms for cell wall biosynthesis

Dongxia Yao1, Qiang Wei1, Wenying Xu1, Ryan D Syrenne2, Joshua S Yuan2 and Zhen Su1*

Author Affiliations

1 State Key Laboratory of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, College of Biological Sciences, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China

2 Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2012, 13(Suppl 15):S10  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-S15-S10

Published: 11 September 2012



NAC domain transcription factors are important transcriptional regulators involved in plant growth, development and stress responses. Recent studies have revealed several classes of NAC transcriptional factors crucial for controlling secondary cell wall biosynthesis. These transcriptional factors mainly include three classes, SND, NST and VND. Despite progress, most current analysis is carried out in the model plant Arabidopsis. Moreover, many downstream genes regulated by these transcriptional factors are still not clear.


In order to identify the key homologue genes across species and discover the network controlling cell wall biosynthesis, we carried out comparative genome analysis of NST, VND and SND genes across 19 higher plant species along with computational modelling of genes regulated or co-regulated with these transcriptional factors.


The comparative genome analysis revealed that evolutionarily the secondary-wall-associated NAC domain transcription factors first appeared in Selaginella moellendorffii. In fact, among the three groups, only VND genes appeared in S. moellendorffii, which is evolutionarily earlier than the other two groups. The Arabidopsis and rice gene expression analysis showed specific patterns of the secondary cell wall-associated NAC genes (SND, NST and VND). Most of them were preferentially expressed in the stem, especially the second internodes. Furthermore, comprehensive co-regulatory network analysis revealed that the SND and MYB genes were co-regulated, which indicated the coordinative function of these transcriptional factors in modulating cell wall biosynthesis. In addition, the co-regulatory network analysis revealed many novel genes and pathways that could be involved in cell wall biosynthesis and its regulation. The gene ontology analysis also indicated that processes like carbohydrate synthesis, transport and stress response, are coordinately regulated toward cell wall biosynthesis.


Overall, we provided a new insight into the evolution and the gene regulatory network of a subgroup of the NAC gene family controlling cell wall composition through bioinformatics data mining and bench validation. Our work might benefit to elucidate the possible molecular mechanism underlying the regulation network of secondary cell wall biosynthesis.