Soil salinity is a serious threat to plant growth and crop productivity. Tall fescue utilization in saline areas is limited by its inferior salt tolerance. Thus, a transcriptome study is a prerequisite for future research aimed at providing deeper insights into the molecular mechanisms of tall fescue salt tolerance as well as molecular breeding. Recent advances in sequencing technology offer a platform to achieve this. Here, Illumina RNA sequencing of tall fescue leaves generated a total of 144,339 raw reads. After de novo assembly, unigenes with a total length of 129,749,938 base pairs were obtained. For functional annotations, the unigenes were aligned to various databases. Further structural analyses revealed 79,352 coding DNA sequences and 13,003 microsatellites distributed across 11,277 unigenes as well as single nucleotide polymorphisms. In total, 1862 unigenes were predicted to encode for 2120 transcription factors among which most were key salt-responsive. We determined differential gene expression and distribution per sample and most genes related to salt tolerance and photosynthesis were upregulated in 48 h vs. 24 h salt treatment. Protein interaction analysis revealed a high interaction of chaperonins and Rubisco proteins in 48 h vs. 24 h salt treatment. The gene expressions were finally validated using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), which was coherent with sequencing results.
Keywords: RNA-sequencing; photosynthesis; salinity stress; simple sequence repeats transcription factors; tall fescue.