Long-insert sequence capture detects high copy numbers in a defence-related beta-glucosidase gene βglu-1 with large variations in white spruce but not Norway spruce

BMC Genomics. 2024 Jan 27;25(1):118. doi: 10.1186/s12864-024-09978-6.


Conifers are long-lived and slow-evolving, thus requiring effective defences against their fast-evolving insect natural enemies. The copy number variation (CNV) of two key acetophenone biosynthesis genes Ugt5/Ugt5b and βglu-1 may provide a plausible mechanism underlying the constitutively variable defence in white spruce (Picea glauca) against its primary defoliator, spruce budworm. This study develops a long-insert sequence capture probe set (Picea_hung_p1.0) for quantifying copy number of βglu-1-like, Ugt5-like genes and single-copy genes on 38 Norway spruce (Picea abies) and 40 P. glauca individuals from eight and nine provenances across Europe and North America respectively. We developed local assemblies (Piabi_c1.0 and Pigla_c.1.0), full-length transcriptomes (PIAB_v1 and PIGL_v1), and gene models to characterise the diversity of βglu-1 and Ugt5 genes. We observed very large copy numbers of βglu-1, with up to 381 copies in a single P. glauca individual. We observed among-provenance CNV of βglu-1 in P. glauca but not P. abies. Ugt5b was predominantly single-copy in both species. This study generates critical hypotheses for testing the emergence and mechanism of extreme CNV, the dosage effect on phenotype, and the varying copy number of genes with the same pathway. We demonstrate new approaches to overcome experimental challenges in genomic research in conifer defences.

Keywords: Acetophenone pathway; CNV; Conifer genomics; Picea; Secondary metabolism; Targeted capture.

MeSH terms

  • DNA Copy Number Variations
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Picea* / genetics
  • Picea* / metabolism
  • Transcriptome
  • beta-Glucosidase / genetics


  • beta-Glucosidase