Background: Jatropha curcas, a tropical shrub, is a promising biofuel crop, which produces seeds with high content of oil and protein. To better understand the maturation process of J. curcas seeds and to improve its agronomic performance, a two-step approach was performed in six different maturation stages of seeds: 1) generation of the entire transcriptome of J. curcas seeds using 454-Roche sequencing of a cDNA library, 2) comparison of transcriptional expression levels using a custom Agilent 8x60K oligonucleotide microarray.
Results: A total of 793,875 high-quality reads were assembled into 19,382 unique full-length contigs, of which 13,507 could be annotated with Gene Ontology (GO) terms. Microarray data analysis identified 9111 probes (out of 57,842 probes), which were differentially expressed between the six maturation stages. The expression results were validated for 75 selected transcripts based on expression levels, predicted function, pathway, and length. Result from cluster analyses showed that transcripts associated with fatty acid, flavonoid, and phenylpropanoid biosynthesis were over-represented in the early stages, while those of lipid storage were over-represented in the late stages. Expression analyses of different maturation stages of J. curcas seed showed that most changes in transcript abundance occurred between the two last stages, suggesting that the timing of metabolic pathways during seed maturation in J. curcas occurs in late stages. The co-expression results showed that the hubs (CB5-D, CDR1, TT8, DFR, HVA22) with the highest number of edges, associated with fatty acid and flavonoid biosynthesis, are showing a decrease in their expression during seed maturation. Furthermore, seed development and hormone pathways are significantly well connected.
Conclusion: The obtained results revealed differentially expressed sequences (DESs) regulating important pathways related to seed maturation, which could contribute to the understanding of the complex regulatory network during seed maturation with the focus on lipid, flavonoid and phenylpropanoid biosynthesis. This study provides detailed information on transcriptional changes during J. curcas seed maturation and provides a starting point for a genomic survey of seed quality traits. The results highlighted specific genes and processes relevant to the molecular mechanisms involved in Jatropha seed maturation. These data can also be utilized regarding other Euphorbiaceae species.
Keywords: Biofuel; Gene expression; High-throughput quantitative real-time PCR; Metabolic pathways; Microarray; Next generation sequencing.