Background: Interpretation of ever-increasing raw sequence information generated by modern genome sequencing technologies faces multiple challenges, such as gene function analysis and genome annotation. Indeed, nearly 40% of genes in plants encode proteins of unknown function. Functional characterization of these genes is one of the main challenges in modern biology. In this regard, the availability of full-length cDNA clones may fill in the gap created between sequence information and biological knowledge. Full-length cDNA clones facilitate functional analysis of the corresponding genes enabling manipulation of their expression in heterologous systems and the generation of a variety of tagged versions of the native protein. In addition, the development of full-length cDNA sequences has the power to improve the quality of genome annotation.
Results: We developed an integrated method to generate a new normalized EST collection enriched in full-length and rare transcripts of different citrus species from multiple tissues and developmental stages. We constructed a total of 15 cDNA libraries, from which we isolated 10,898 high-quality ESTs representing 6142 different genes. Percentages of redundancy and proportion of full-length clones range from 8 to 33, and 67 to 85, respectively, indicating good efficiency of the approach employed. The new EST collection adds 2113 new citrus ESTs, representing 1831 unigenes, to the collection of citrus genes available in the public databases. To facilitate functional analysis, cDNAs were introduced in a Gateway-based cloning vector for high-throughput functional analysis of genes in planta. Herein, we describe the technical methods used in the library construction, sequence analysis of clones and the overexpression of CitrSEP, a citrus homolog to the Arabidopsis SEP3 gene, in Arabidopsis as an example of a practical application of the engineered Gateway vector for functional analysis.
Conclusion: The new EST collection denotes an important step towards the identification of all genes in the citrus genome. Furthermore, public availability of the cDNA clones generated in this study, and not only their sequence, enables testing of the biological function of the genes represented in the collection. Expression of the citrus SEP3 homologue, CitrSEP, in Arabidopsis results in early flowering, along with other phenotypes resembling the over-expression of the Arabidopsis SEPALLATA genes. Our findings suggest that the members of the SEP gene family play similar roles in these quite distant plant species.