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Open Access Research article

Transcriptional profiling of the pea shoot apical meristem reveals processes underlying its function and maintenance

Chui E Wong, Prem L Bhalla, Harald Ottenhof and Mohan B Singh*

Author Affiliations

Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology laboratory, Australian Research Centre of Excellence for Integrative Legume Research, Faculty of Land and Food Resources, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia

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BMC Plant Biology 2008, 8:73  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-8-73

Published: 30 June 2008

Abstract

Background

Despite the importance of the shoot apical meristem (SAM) in plant development and organ formation, our understanding of the molecular mechanisms controlling its function is limited. Genomic tools have the potential to unravel the molecular mysteries of the SAM, and legume systems are increasingly being used in plant-development studies owing to their unique characteristics such as nitrogen fixation, secondary metabolism, and pod development. Garden pea (Pisum sativum) is a well-established classic model species for genetics studies that has been used since the Mendel era. In addition, the availability of a plethora of developmental mutants makes pea an ideal crop legume for genomics studies. This study aims to utilise genomics tools in isolating genes that play potential roles in the regulation of SAM activity.

Results

In order to identify genes that are differentially expressed in the SAM, we generated 2735 ESTs from three cDNA libraries derived from freshly micro-dissected SAMs from 10-day-old garden peas (Pisum sativum cv Torsdag). Custom-designed oligonucleotide arrays were used to compare the transcriptional profiles of pea SAMs and non-meristematic tissues. A total of 184 and 175 transcripts were significantly up- or down-regulated in the pea SAM, respectively. As expected, close to 61% of the transcripts down-regulated in the SAM were found in the public database, whereas sequences from the same source only comprised 12% of the genes that were expressed at higher levels in the SAM. This highlights the under-representation of transcripts from the meristematic tissues in the current public pea protein database, and demonstrates the utility of our SAM EST collection as an essential genetic resource for revealing further information on the regulation of this developmental process. In addition to unknowns, many of the up-regulated transcripts are known to encode products associated with cell division and proliferation, epigenetic regulation, auxin-mediated responses and microRNA regulation.

Conclusion

The presented data provide a picture of the transcriptional profile of the pea SAM, and reveal possible roles of differentially expressed transcripts in meristem function and maintenance.