Sugarcane is an economically important crop that is used for the production of fuel ethanol. Diazotrophic bacteria have been isolated from sugarcane tissues, without causing visible plant anatomical changes or disease symptoms. These bacteria can be beneficial to the plant by promoting root growth and an increase in plant yield. Different rates of Biological Nitrogen Fixation (BNF) were observed in different genotypes. The aim of this work was to conduct a comprehensive molecular and physiological analysis of two model genotypes for contrasting BNF efficiency in order to unravel plant genes that are differentially regulated during a natural association with diazotrophic bacteria. A next-generation sequencing of RNA samples from the genotypes SP70-1143 (high-BNF) and Chunee (low-BNF) was performed. A differential transcriptome analysis showed that several pathways were differentially regulated among the two BNF-contrasting genotypes, including nitrogen metabolism, hormone regulation and bacteria recognition. Physiological analyses, such as nitrogenase and GS activity quantification, bacterial colonization, auxin response and root architecture evaluation, supported the transcriptome expression analyses. The differences observed between the genotypes may explain, at least in part, the differences in BNF contributions. Some of the identified genes might be involved in key regulatory processes for a beneficial association and could be further used as tools for obtaining more efficient BNF genotypes.
Keywords: auxin signaling; differential RNA-seq transcriptome; endophytic diazotrophic bacteria; nitrogen metabolism; nitrogen-fixing bacteria; plant receptors.