Background: There are thousands of maize lines with distinctive normal as well as mutant phenotypes. To determine the validity of comparisons among mutants in different lines, we first address the question of how similar the transcriptomes are in three standard lines at four developmental stages.
Results: Four tissues (leaves, 1 mm anthers, 1.5 mm anthers, pollen) from one hybrid and one inbred maize line were hybridized with the W23 inbred on Agilent oligonucleotide microarrays with 21,000 elements. Tissue-specific gene expression patterns were documented, with leaves having the most tissue-specific transcripts. Haploid pollen expresses about half as many genes as the other samples. High overlap of gene expression was found between leaves and anthers. Anther and pollen transcript expression showed high conservation among the three lines while leaves had more divergence. Antisense transcripts represented about 6 to 14 percent of total transcriptome by tissue type but were similar across lines. Gene Ontology (GO) annotations were assigned and tabulated. Enrichment in GO terms related to cell-cycle functions was found for the identified antisense transcripts. Microarray results were validated via quantitative real-time PCR and by hybridization to a second oligonucleotide microarray platform.
Conclusion: Despite high polymorphisms and structural differences among maize inbred lines, the transcriptomes of the three lines displayed remarkable similarities, especially in both reproductive samples (anther and pollen). We also identified potential stage markers for maize anther development. A large number of antisense transcripts were detected and implicated in important biological functions given the enrichment of particular GO classes.