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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Combining proteomics and transcriptome sequencing to identify active plant-cell-wall-degrading enzymes in a leaf beetle

Roy Kirsch1, Natalie Wielsch2, Heiko Vogel1, Aleš Svatoš2, David G Heckel1 and Yannick Pauchet1*

Author Affiliations

1 Entomology department, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans-Knöll-Str. 8, 07745, Jena, Germany

2 Mass spectrometry Research Group, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans-Knöll-Str. 8, 07745, Jena, Germany

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BMC Genomics 2012, 13:587  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-587

Published: 1 November 2012

Abstract

Background

The primary plant cell wall is a complex mixture of polysaccharides and proteins encasing living plant cells. Among these polysaccharides, cellulose is the most abundant and useful biopolymer present on earth. These polysaccharides also represent a rich source of energy for organisms which have evolved the ability to degrade them. A growing body of evidence suggests that phytophagous beetles, mainly species from the superfamilies Chrysomeloidea and Curculionoidea, possess endogenous genes encoding complex and diverse families of so-called plant cell wall degrading enzymes (PCWDEs). The presence of these genes in phytophagous beetles may have been a key element in their success as herbivores. Here, we combined a proteomics approach and transcriptome sequencing to identify PCWDEs present in larval gut contents of the mustard leaf beetle, Phaedon cochleariae.

Results

Using a two-dimensional proteomics approach, we recovered 11 protein bands, isolated using activity assays targeting cellulose-, pectin- and xylan-degrading enzymes. After mass spectrometry analyses, a total of 13 proteins putatively responsible for degrading plant cell wall polysaccharides were identified; these proteins belong to three glycoside hydrolase (GH) families: GH11 (xylanases), GH28 (polygalacturonases or pectinases), and GH45 (β-1,4-glucanases or cellulases). Additionally, highly stable and proteolysis-resistant host plant-derived proteins from various pathogenesis-related protein (PRs) families as well as polygalacturonase-inhibiting proteins (PGIPs) were also identified from the gut contents proteome. In parallel, transcriptome sequencing revealed the presence of at least 19 putative PCWDE transcripts encoded by the P. cochleariae genome. All of these were specifically expressed in the insect gut rather than the rest of the body, and in adults as well as larvae. The discrepancy observed in the number of putative PCWDEs between transcriptome and proteome analyses could be partially explained by differences in transcriptional level.

Conclusions

Combining proteome and transcriptome sequencing analyses proved to be a powerful tool for the discovery of active PCWDEs in a non-model species. Our data represent the starting point of an in-depth functional and evolutionary characterization of PCWDE gene families in phytophagous beetles and their contribution to the adaptation of these highly successful herbivores to their host plants.