Background: Grass pea (Lathyrus sativus L.) is a valuable resource for potentially durable partial resistance to rust. To gain insight into the resistance mechanism and identify potential resistance genes, we generated the first comprehensive transcriptome assemblies from control and Uromyces pisi inoculated leafs of a susceptible and a partially rust-resistant grass pea genotype by RNA-seq.
Results: 134,914 contigs, shared by both libraries, were used to analyse their differential expression in response to rust infection. Functional annotation grouped 60.4% of the contigs present in plant databases (37.8% of total) to 33 main functional categories, being "protein", "RNA", "signalling", "transport" and "stress" the most represented. Transcription profiles revealed considerable differences in regulation of major phytohormone signalling pathways: whereas Salicylic and Abscisic Acid pathways were up-regulated in the resistant genotype, Jasmonate and Ethylene pathways were down-regulated in the susceptible one. As potential Resistance-genes we identified a mildew resistance locus O (MLO)-like gene, and MLO-related transcripts. Also, several pathogenesis-related genes were up-regulated in the resistant and exclusively down regulated in the susceptible genotype. Pathogen effectors identified in both inoculated libraries, as e.g. the rust Rtp1 transcript, may be responsible for the down-regulation of defence-related transcripts. The two genotypes contained 4,892 polymorphic contigs with SNPs unevenly distributed between different functional categories. Protein degradation (29.7%) and signalling receptor kinases (8.2%) were the most diverged, illustrating evolutionary adaptation of grass pea to the host/pathogens arms race.
Conclusions: The vast array of novel, resistance-related genomic information we present here provides a highly valuable resource for future smart breeding approaches in this hitherto under-researched, valuable legume crop.