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Open Access Research article

Spliceosomal intron size expansion in domesticated grapevine (Vitis vinifera)

Ke Jiang1* and Leslie R Goertzen2

Author Affiliations

1 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NY, 11724, USA

2 Department of Biological Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, 36849, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:52  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-52

Published: 8 March 2011

Abstract

Background

Spliceosomal introns are important components of eukaryotic genes as their structure, sizes and contents reflect the architecture of gene and genomes. Intron size, determined by both neutral evolution, repetitive elements activities and potential functional constraints, varies significantly in eukaryotes, suggesting unique dynamics and evolution in different lineages of eukaryotic organisms. However, the evolution of intron size, is rarely studied. To investigate intron size dynamics in flowering plants, in particular domesticated grapevines, a survey of intron size and content in wine grape (Vitis vinifera Pinot Noir) genes was conducted by assembling and mapping the transcriptome of V. vinifera genes from ESTs to characterize and analyze spliceosomal introns.

Results

Uncommonly large size of spliceosomal intron was observed in V. vinifera genome, otherwise inconsistent with overall genome size dynamics when comparing Arabidopsis, Populus and Vitis. In domesticated grapevine, intron size is generally not related to gene function. The composition of enlarged introns in grapevines indicated extensive transposable element (TE) activity within intronic regions. TEs comprise about 80% of the expanded intron space and in particular, recent LTR retrotransposon insertions are enriched in these intronic regions, suggesting an intron size expansion in the lineage leading to domesticated grapevine, instead of size contractions in Arabidopsis and Populus. Comparative analysis of selected intronic regions in V. vinifera cultivars and wild grapevine species revealed that accelerated TE activity was associated with grapevine domestication, and in some cases with the development of specific cultivars.

Conclusions

In this study, we showed intron size expansion driven by TE activities in domesticated grapevines, likely a result of long-term vegetative propagation and intensive human care, which simultaneously promote TE proliferation and repress TE removal mechanisms such as recombination. The intron size expansion observed in domesticated grapevines provided an example of rapid plant genome evolution in response to artificial selection and propagation, and may shed light on the important genomic changes during domestication. In addition, the transcriptome approach used to gather intron size data significantly improved annotations of the V. vinifera genome.