Research studies have recently focused on circle RNAs (circRNAs) in relation to their regulatory functions in animals. However, the systematic identification of circRNAs in plants, especially non-model plants, is limited. In addition, raw report on the prediction of the potential role of circRNAs in plant response to pathogen invasion is currently available. We conducted the systematic identification of circRNAs from four materials originating from three species belonging to genus Actinidia under different situations using ribosomal RNA (rRNA) depleted RNA-Seq data. A total of 3,582 circRNAs were identified in Actinidia, of which 64.01, 21.44, and 14.55% were intergenic circRNAs, exonic circRNAs, and intronic circRNAs, respectively. Tissue-specific expression of circRNAs was observed in kiwifruit, and a species-specific response was detected when infected with Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (Psa), which is the causative agent of kiwifruit bacterial canker disease. Furthermore, we found that both exonic and intronic circRNAs were significantly positively correlated to parent protein-coding genes, and intronic circRNAs are a class of highly remarkable regulators the parent genes comparing to that of exonic circRNAs. Expression and weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) identified a set of circRNAs that were closely associated with plant defense response. The findings of the presents study suggest that circRNAs exhibit tissue- and species-specific expression, as well as play an important role in plant immune response.
Keywords: PSA; WGCNA; circRNAs; kiwifruit; plant defense.