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Open Access Research article

Transcriptomic changes induced by acute ozone in resistant and sensitive Medicago truncatula accessions

Michael C Puckette1, Yuhong Tang2 and Ramamurthy Mahalingam1*

Author Affiliations

1 246 Noble Research Center, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA

2 The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation Inc., Plant Biology Division, Ardmore, OK, USA

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BMC Plant Biology 2008, 8:46  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-8-46

Published: 23 April 2008



Tropospheric ozone, the most abundant air pollutant is detrimental to plant and animal health including humans. In sensitive plant species even a few hours of exposure to this potent oxidant (200–300 nL. L-1) leads to severe oxidative stress that manifests as visible cell death. In resistant plants usually no visible symptoms are observed on exposure to similar ozone concentrations. Naturally occurring variability to acute ozone in plants provides a valuable resource for examining molecular basis of the differences in responses to ozone. From our earlier study in Medicago truncatula, we have identified cultivar Jemalong is ozone sensitive and PI 464815 (JE154) is an ozone-resistant accession. Analyses of transcriptome changes in ozone-sensitive and resistant accession will provide important clues for understanding the molecular changes governing the plant responses to ozone.


Acute ozone treatment (300 nL L-1 for six hours) led to a reactive oxygen species (ROS) burst in sensitive Jemalong six hours post-fumigation. In resistant JE154 increase in ROS levels was much reduced compared to Jemalong. Based on the results of ROS profiling, time points for microarray analysis were one hour into the ozone treatment, end of treatment and onset of an ozone-induced ROS burst at 12 hours. Replicated temporal transcriptome analysis in these two accessions using 17 K oligonucleotide arrays revealed more than 2000 genes were differentially expressed. Significantly enriched gene ontologies (GOs) were identified using the Cluster Enrichment analysis program. A striking finding was the alacrity of JE154 in altering its gene expression patterns in response to ozone, in stark contrast to delayed transcriptional response of Jemalong. GOs involved in signaling, hormonal pathways, antioxidants and secondary metabolism were altered in both accessions. However, the repertoire of genes responding in each of these categories was different between the two accessions. Real-time PCR analysis confirmed the differential expression patterns of a subset of these genes.


This study provided a cogent view of the unique and shared transcriptional responses in an ozone-resistant and sensitive accession that exemplifies the complexity of oxidative signaling in plants. Based on this study, and supporting literature in Arabidopsis we speculate that plants sensitive to acute ozone are impaired in perception of the initial signals generated by the action of this oxidant. This in turn leads to a delayed transcriptional response in the ozone sensitive plants. In resistant plants rapid and sustained activation of several signaling pathways enables the deployment of multiple mechanisms for minimizing the toxicity effect of this reactive molecule.