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Open Access Research article

Genome-wide identification and functional analyses of calmodulin genes in Solanaceous species

Yuan Zhao1, Wei Liu1, You-Ping Xu2, Jia-Yi Cao1, Janet Braam3 and Xin-Zhong Cai1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Biotechnology, College of Agriculture and Biotechnology, Zhejiang University, 866 Yu Hang Tang Road, Hangzhou 310058, China

2 Center of Analysis and Measurement, Zhejiang University, 866 Yu Hang Tang Road, Hangzhou 310058, China

3 Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Rice University, Houston, TX 77005-1892, USA

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BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13:70  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-70

Published: 27 April 2013



Calmodulin (CaM) is a major calcium sensor in all eukaryotes. It binds calcium and modulates the activity of a wide range of downstream proteins in response to calcium signals. However, little is known about the CaM gene family in Solanaceous species, including the economically important species, tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), and the gene silencing model plant, Nicotiana benthamiana. Moreover, the potential function of CaM in plant disease resistance remains largely unclear.


We performed genome-wide identification of CaM gene families in Solanaceous species. Employing bioinformatics approaches, multiple full-length CaM genes were identified from tomato, N. benthamiana and potato (S. tuberosum) genomes, with tomato having 6 CaM genes, N. benthamiana having 7 CaM genes, and potato having 4 CaM genes. Sequence comparison analyses showed that three tomato genes, SlCaM3/4/5, two potato genes StCaM2/3, and two sets of N. benthamiana genes, NbCaM1/2/3/4 and NbCaM5/6, encode identical CaM proteins, yet the genes contain different intron/exon organization and are located on different chromosomes. Further sequence comparisons and gene structural and phylogenetic analyses reveal that Solanaceous species gained a new group of CaM genes during evolution. These new CaM genes are unusual in that they contain three introns in contrast to only a single intron typical of known CaM genes in plants. The tomato CaM (SlCaM) genes were found to be expressed in all organs. Prediction of cis-acting elements in 5' upstream sequences and expression analyses demonstrated that SlCaM genes have potential to be highly responsive to a variety of biotic and abiotic stimuli. Additionally, silencing of SlCaM2 and SlCaM6 altered expression of a set of signaling and defense-related genes and resulted in significantly lower resistance to Tobacco rattle virus and the oomycete pathogen, Pythium aphanidermatum.


The CaM gene families in the Solanaceous species tomato, N. benthamiana and potato were identified through a genome-wide analysis. All three plant species harbor a small set of genes that encode identical CaM proteins, which may manifest a strategy of plants to retain redundancy or enhanced quantitative gene function. In addition, Solanaceous species have evolved one new group of CaM genes during evolution. CaM genes play important roles in plant disease resistance to a variety of pathogens.

Calcium; Calmodulin; Gene Structure; Phylogenetic Analysis; Defense; Resistance; Tomato; Nicotiana Benthamiana; Potato