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Open Access Short Report

Putative cis-regulatory elements in genes highly expressed in rice sperm cells

Niharika Sharma1, Scott D Russell2, Prem L Bhalla1 and Mohan B Singh1*

Author Affiliations

1 Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Laboratory, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Integrative Legume Research, Melbourne School of Land and Environment, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia

2 Department of Botany and Microbiology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:319  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-319

Published: 5 September 2011



The male germ line in flowering plants is initiated within developing pollen grains via asymmetric division. The smaller cell then becomes totally encased within a much larger vegetative cell, forming a unique "cell within a cell structure". The generative cell subsequently divides to give rise to two non-motile diminutive sperm cells, which take part in double fertilization and lead to the seed set. Sperm cells are difficult to investigate because of their presence within the confines of the larger vegetative cell. However, recently developed techniques for the isolation of rice sperm cells and the fully annotated rice genome sequence have allowed for the characterization of the transcriptional repertoire of sperm cells. Microarray gene expression data has identified a subset of rice genes that show unique or highly preferential expression in sperm cells. This information has led to the identification of cis-regulatory elements (CREs), which are conserved in sperm-expressed genes and are putatively associated with the control of cell-specific expression.


We aimed to identify the CREs associated with rice sperm cell-specific gene expression data using in silico prediction tools. We analyzed 1-kb upstream regions of the top 40 sperm cell co-expressed genes for over-represented conserved and novel motifs. Analysis of upstream regions with the SIGNALSCAN program with the PLACE database, MEME and the Mclip tool helped to find combinatorial sets of known transcriptional factor-binding sites along with two novel motifs putatively associated with the co-expression of sperm cell-specific genes.


Our data shows the occurrence of novel motifs, which are putative CREs and are likely targets of transcriptional factors regulating sperm cell gene expression. These motifs can be used to design the experimental verification of regulatory elements and the identification of transcriptional factors that regulate sperm cell-specific gene expression.

cis-regulatory elements; plant reproduction; male gamete; gene expression; Oryza sativa