Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Analysis of wheat SAGE tags reveals evidence for widespread antisense transcription

Rebecca L Poole1*, Gary LA Barker1, Kay Werner1, Gaia F Biggi2, Jane Coghill3, J George Gibbings4, Simon Berry5, Jim M Dunwell4 and Keith J Edwards1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

2 School of Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

3 Transcriptomics Facility, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

4 School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire, UK

5 Nickerson-Advanta, Station Road, Docking, Norfolk, UK

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:475  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-475

Published: 10 October 2008



Serial Analysis of Gene Expression (SAGE) is a powerful tool for genome-wide transcription studies. Unlike microarrays, it has the ability to detect novel forms of RNA such as alternatively spliced and antisense transcripts, without the need for prior knowledge of their existence. One limitation of using SAGE on an organism with a complex genome and lacking detailed sequence information, such as the hexaploid bread wheat Triticum aestivum, is accurate annotation of the tags generated. Without accurate annotation it is impossible to fully understand the dynamic processes involved in such complex polyploid organisms. Hence we have developed and utilised novel procedures to characterise, in detail, SAGE tags generated from the whole grain transcriptome of hexaploid wheat.


Examination of 71,930 Long SAGE tags generated from six libraries derived from two wheat genotypes grown under two different conditions suggested that SAGE is a reliable and reproducible technique for use in studying the hexaploid wheat transcriptome. However, our results also showed that in poorly annotated and/or poorly sequenced genomes, such as hexaploid wheat, considerably more information can be extracted from SAGE data by carrying out a systematic analysis of both perfect and "fuzzy" (partially matched) tags. This detailed analysis of the SAGE data shows first that while there is evidence of alternative polyadenylation this appears to occur exclusively within the 3' untranslated regions. Secondly, we found no strong evidence for widespread alternative splicing in the developing wheat grain transcriptome. However, analysis of our SAGE data shows that antisense transcripts are probably widespread within the transcriptome and appear to be derived from numerous locations within the genome. Examination of antisense transcripts showing sequence similarity to the Puroindoline a and Puroindoline b genes suggests that such antisense transcripts might have a role in the regulation of gene expression.


Our results indicate that the detailed analysis of transcriptome data, such as SAGE tags, is essential to understand fully the factors that regulate gene expression and that such analysis of the wheat grain transcriptome reveals that antisense transcripts maybe widespread and hence probably play a significant role in the regulation of gene expression during grain development.