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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Identification and computational annotation of genes differentially expressed in pulp development of Cocos nucifera L. by suppression subtractive hybridization

Yuanxue Liang1, Yijun Yuan1, Tao Liu2, Wei Mao1, Yusheng Zheng1 and Dongdong Li13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biotechnology, College of Materials and Chemical Engineering, Hainan University, Haikou 570228, Hainan, PR China

2 Annoroad Gene Technology Co. Ltd, Beijing 100176, PR China

3 Hainan Key Laboratory for Sustainable Utilization of Tropical Bioresource, Hainan University, Haikou 570228, Hainan, PR China

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BMC Plant Biology 2014, 14:205  doi:10.1186/s12870-014-0205-7

Published: 2 August 2014



Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) is one of the world’s most versatile, economically important tropical crops. Little is known about the physiological and molecular basis of coconut pulp (endosperm) development and only a few coconut genes and gene product sequences are available in public databases. This study identified genes that were differentially expressed during development of coconut pulp and functionally annotated these identified genes using bioinformatics analysis.


Pulp from three different coconut developmental stages was collected. Four suppression subtractive hybridization (SSH) libraries were constructed (forward and reverse libraries A and B between stages 1 and 2, and C and D between stages 2 and 3), and identified sequences were computationally annotated using Blast2GO software. A total of 1272 clones were obtained for analysis from four SSH libraries with 63% showing similarity to known proteins. Pairwise comparing of stage-specific gene ontology ids from libraries B-D, A-C, B-C and A-D showed that 32 genes were continuously upregulated and seven downregulated; 28 were transiently upregulated and 23 downregulated. KEGG (Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes) analysis showed that 1-acyl-sn-glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase (LPAAT), phospholipase D, acetyl-CoA carboxylase carboxyltransferase beta subunit, 3-hydroxyisobutyryl-CoA hydrolase-like and pyruvate dehydrogenase E1 β subunit were associated with fatty acid biosynthesis or metabolism. Triose phosphate isomerase, cellulose synthase and glucan 1,3-β-glucosidase were related to carbohydrate metabolism, and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase was related to both fatty acid and carbohydrate metabolism. Of 737 unigenes, 103 encoded enzymes were involved in fatty acid and carbohydrate biosynthesis and metabolism, and a number of transcription factors and other interesting genes with stage-specific expression were confirmed by real-time PCR, with validation of the SSH results as high as 66.6%. Based on determination of coconut endosperm fatty acids content by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry, a number of candidate genes in fatty acid anabolism were selected for further study.


Functional annotation of genes differentially expressed in coconut pulp development helped determine the molecular basis of coconut endosperm development. The SSH method identified genes related to fatty acids, carbohydrate and secondary metabolites. The results will be important for understanding gene functions and regulatory networks in coconut fruit.

Coconut; Computational annotation; Differentially expressed genes; Fatty acids; Pulp development; Suppression subtractive hybridization