Upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) is an important fiber crop species, which is intensively plagued by a plethora of phytopathogenic fungi such as Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. vasinfectum (Fov) causing severe wilt disease. Resistance gene analogs (RGAs) are the largest class of potential resistance (R) genes depicting highly conserved domains and structures in plants. Additionally, RGAs are pivotal components of breeding projects towards host disease resistance, serving as useful functional markers linked to R genes. In this study, a cloning approach based on conserved RGAs motifs was used in order to amplify 38 RGAs from two upland cotton cultivars differing in their Fov susceptibility. Besides, we assessed the phylogenetic expansion and the evolutionary pressures acting upon 127 RGA homologues, which were previously deposited in GenBank along with the 38 RGAs from this study. A total of 165 RGAs sequences were clustered according to their BLAST(P) similarities in ten paralogous genes groups (PGGs). These RGAs exhibited intensive signs of positive selection as it was revealed by inferring various maximum likelihood analyses. The results showed robust signs of positive selection, acting in almost all PGGs across the phylogeny. The evolutionary analysis revealed the existence of 42 positively selected residue sites across the PGG lineages, putatively affecting their ligand-binding specificities. As RGAs derived markers are in close linkage to R genes, these results could be used in ongoing breeding programs of upland cotton.
Keywords: Fungal diseases; Molecular breeding; Non-synonymous nucleotide substitution.