Genome-wide identification, expression analysis, and functional characterization of previously uncharacterized hexokinase family of oil crop, Brassica napus, underscore the importance of this gene family in plant growth and development. In plants, the multi-gene family of dual-function hexokinases (HXKs) plays important roles in sugar metabolism and sensing that affect growth and development. Rapeseed (Brassica napus L.) is an important oil crop; however, little is known about the B. napus HXK gene family. We identified 19 putative HXKs in B. napus genome. B. rapa and B. oleracea, the two diploid progenitors of B. napus, contributed almost equally to the BnHXK genes. Phylogenetic analysis divided the 19 BnHXKs into four groups. The exon-intron structures of BnHXKs share high similarity to those of HXKs in Arabidopsis and rice. The group III and IV BnHXKs are highly expressed in roots, whereas group I members preferentially express in leaves. Analysis of seed transcriptomes at different developmental stages showed that most of group I and IV HXKs are highly expressed 2-weeks after pollination (2WAP), compared to 4WAP for group III. BnHKXs are differentially expressed in susceptible and tolerant B. napus cultivars after fungal infection, suggesting the possible involvement in defense response. We generated rapeseed RNAi lines for BnHXK9, a member of relatively less characterized group IV, by pollen-mediated gene transformation. The seedlings of BnHXK9-RNAi lines showed delayed growth compared to the wild type. The RNAi plants were dwarf with curly leaves, suggesting the involvement of BnHXK9 in plant development. Collectively, our findings provides a comprehensive account of BnHXK gene family in an important crop and a starting point for further elucidation of their roles in sugar metabolism and sensing, as well as plant growth and development.
Keywords: Brassica napus L.; Hexokinase; RNAi; Transcriptome analysis.