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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Characterisation of the wheat (triticum aestivum L.) transcriptome by de novo assembly for the discovery of phosphate starvation-responsive genes: gene expression in Pi-stressed wheat

Youko Oono1*, Fuminori Kobayashi1, Yoshihiro Kawahara1, Takayuki Yazawa12, Hirokazu Handa1, Takeshi Itoh1 and Takashi Matsumoto1

Author affiliations

1 Agrogenomics Research Center, National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, 2-1-2 Kannondai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, 305-8602, Japan

2 Government and Public Corporation Information Systems, Hitachi Co., Ltd., 2-4-18 Toyo, Koto-ku, Tokyo, 135-8633, Japan

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2013, 14:77  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-77

Published: 4 February 2013



Phosphorus (P) is an essential macronutrient for plant growth and development. To modulate their P homeostasis, plants must balance P uptake, mobilisation, and partitioning to various organs. Despite the worldwide importance of wheat as a cultivated food crop, molecular mechanisms associated with phosphate (Pi) starvation in wheat remain unclear. To elucidate these mechanisms, we used RNA-Seq methods to generate transcriptome profiles of the wheat variety ‘Chinese Spring’ responding to 10 days of Pi starvation.


We carried out de novo assembly on 73.8 million high-quality reads generated from RNA-Seq libraries. We then constructed a transcript dataset containing 29,617 non-redundant wheat transcripts, comprising 15,047 contigs and 14,570 non-redundant full-length cDNAs from the TriFLDB database. When compared with barley full-length cDNAs, 10,656 of the 15,047 contigs were unalignable, suggesting that many might be distinct from barley transcripts. The average expression level of the contigs was lower than that of the known cDNAs, implying that these contigs included transcripts that were rarely represented in the full-length cDNA library. Within the non-redundant transcript set, we identified 892–2,833 responsive transcripts in roots and shoots, corresponding on average to 23.4% of the contigs not covered by cDNAs in TriFLDB under Pi starvation. The relative expression level of the wheat IPS1 (Induced by Phosphate Starvation 1) homologue, TaIPS1, was 341-fold higher in roots and 13-fold higher in shoots; this finding was further confirmed by qRT-PCR analysis. A comparative analysis of the wheat- and rice-responsive transcripts for orthologous genes under Pi-starvation revealed commonly upregulated transcripts, most of which appeared to be involved in a general response to Pi starvation, namely, an IPS1-mediated signalling cascade and its downstream functions such as Pi remobilisation, Pi uptake, and changes in Pi metabolism.


Our transcriptome profiles demonstrated the impact of Pi starvation on global gene expression in wheat. This study revealed that enhancement of the Pi-mediated signalling cascade using IPS1 is a potent adaptation mechanism to Pi starvation that is conserved in both wheat and rice and validated the effectiveness of using short-read next-generation sequencing data for wheat transcriptome analysis in the absence of reference genome information.

De novo assembly; RNA-Seq; Transcriptome; Wheat; Phosphorus; Phosphate starvation