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Open Access Research article

Searching for resistance genes to Bursaphelenchus xylophilus using high throughput screening

Carla S Santos1, Miguel Pinheiro2, Ana I Silva1, Conceição Egas3 and Marta W Vasconcelos1*

Author affiliations

1 CBQF – Centro de Biotecnologia e Química Fina, Escola Superior de Biotecnologia, Centro Regional do Porto da Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Rua Dr. António Bernardino Almeida, Porto, 4200-072, Portugal

2 Bioinformatics Unit, Biocant, Parque Tecnológico de Cantanhede, Núcleo 04, Lote 03, Cantanhede, 3060-197, Portugal

3 Advanced Services Unit, Biocant, Parque Tecnológico de Cantanhede, Núcleo 04, Lote 03, Cantanhede, 3060-197, Portugal

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2012, 13:599  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-599

Published: 7 November 2012

Abstract

Background

Pine wilt disease (PWD), caused by the pinewood nematode (PWN; Bursaphelenchus xylophilus), damages and kills pine trees and is causing serious economic damage worldwide. Although the ecological mechanism of infestation is well described, the plant’s molecular response to the pathogen is not well known. This is due mainly to the lack of genomic information and the complexity of the disease. High throughput sequencing is now an efficient approach for detecting the expression of genes in non-model organisms, thus providing valuable information in spite of the lack of the genome sequence. In an attempt to unravel genes potentially involved in the pine defense against the pathogen, we hereby report the high throughput comparative sequence analysis of infested and non-infested stems of Pinus pinaster (very susceptible to PWN) and Pinus pinea (less susceptible to PWN).

Results

Four cDNA libraries from infested and non-infested stems of P. pinaster and P. pinea were sequenced in a full 454 GS FLX run, producing a total of 2,083,698 reads. The putative amino acid sequences encoded by the assembled transcripts were annotated according to Gene Ontology, to assign Pinus contigs into Biological Processes, Cellular Components and Molecular Functions categories. Most of the annotated transcripts corresponded to Picea genes-25.4-39.7%, whereas a smaller percentage, matched Pinus genes, 1.8-12.8%, probably a consequence of more public genomic information available for Picea than for Pinus. The comparative transcriptome analysis showed that when P. pinaster was infested with PWN, the genes malate dehydrogenase, ABA, water deficit stress related genes and PAR1 were highly expressed, while in PWN-infested P. pinea, the highly expressed genes were ricin B-related lectin, and genes belonging to the SNARE and high mobility group families. Quantitative PCR experiments confirmed the differential gene expression between the two pine species.

Conclusions

Defense-related genes triggered by nematode infestation were detected in both P. pinaster and P. pinea transcriptomes utilizing 454 pyrosequencing technology. P. pinaster showed higher abundance of genes related to transcriptional regulation, terpenoid secondary metabolism (including some with nematicidal activity) and pathogen attack. P. pinea showed higher abundance of genes related to oxidative stress and higher levels of expression in general of stress responsive genes. This study provides essential information about the molecular defense mechanisms utilized by P. pinaster and P. pinea against PWN infestation and contributes to a better understanding of PWD.