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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Endo-(1,4)-β-Glucanase gene families in the grasses: temporal and spatial Co-transcription of orthologous genes1

Margaret Buchanan1, Rachel A Burton1, Kanwarpal S Dhugga2, Antoni J Rafalski3, Scott V Tingey3, Neil J Shirley1 and Geoffrey B Fincher1*

Author affiliations

1 Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls, and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, University of Adelaide, South Australia, 5064, Australia

2 Genetic Discovery Group, Crop Genetics Research and Development, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc, 7300 NW 62nd Avenue, Johnston, IA, 50131-1004, USA

3 Genetic Discovery Group, DuPont Crop Genetics Research DuPont Experimental Station, Building E353, Wilmington, DE, 198803, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Plant Biology 2012, 12:235  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-235

Published: 11 December 2012

Abstract

Background

Endo-(1,4)-β-glucanase (cellulase) glycosyl hydrolase GH9 enzymes have been implicated in several aspects of cell wall metabolism in higher plants, including cellulose biosynthesis and degradation, modification of other wall polysaccharides that contain contiguous (1,4)-β-glucosyl residues, and wall loosening during cell elongation.

Results

The endo-(1,4)-β-glucanase gene families from barley (Hordeum vulgare), maize (Zea mays), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), rice (Oryza sativa) and Brachypodium (Brachypodium distachyon) range in size from 23 to 29 members. Phylogenetic analyses show variations in clade structure between the grasses and Arabidopsis, and indicate differential gene loss and gain during evolution. Map positions and comparative studies of gene structures allow orthologous genes in the five species to be identified and synteny between the grasses is found to be high. It is also possible to differentiate between homoeologues resulting from ancient polyploidizations of the maize genome. Transcript analyses using microarray, massively parallel signature sequencing and quantitative PCR data for barley, rice and maize indicate that certain members of the endo-(1,4)-β-glucanase gene family are transcribed across a wide range of tissues, while others are specifically transcribed in particular tissues. There are strong correlations between transcript levels of several members of the endo-(1,4)-β-glucanase family and the data suggest that evolutionary conservation of transcription exists between orthologues across the grass family. There are also strong correlations between certain members of the endo-(1,4)-β-glucanase family and other genes known to be involved in cell wall loosening and cell expansion, such as expansins and xyloglucan endotransglycosylases.

Conclusions

The identification of these groups of genes will now allow us to test hypotheses regarding their functions and joint participation in wall synthesis, re-modelling and degradation, together with their potential role in lignocellulose conversion during biofuel production from grasses and cereal crop residues.

Keywords:
Biofuels; Cell walls; Cellulases; Cellulose synthesis; Co-expression; Grasses; Stem strength