UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Genome-Wide Expression and Alternative Splicing in Domesticated Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus L.) under Flooding Stress Lee, Joon Seon; Gao, Lexuan; Guzman, Laura Melissa; Rieseberg, Loren H.


Approximately 10% of agricultural land is subject to periodic flooding, which reduces the growth, survivorship, and yield of most crops, reinforcing the need to understand and enhance flooding resistance in our crops. Here, we generated RNA-Seq data from leaf and root tissue of domesticated sunflower to explore differences in gene expression and alternative splicing (AS) between a resistant and susceptible cultivar under both flooding and control conditions and at three time points. Using a combination of mixed model and gene co-expression analyses, we were able to separate general responses of sunflower to flooding stress from those that contribute to the greater tolerance of the resistant line. Both cultivars responded to flooding stress by upregulating expression levels of known submergence responsive genes, such as alcohol dehydrogenases, and slowing metabolism-related activities. Differential AS reinforced expression differences, with reduced AS frequencies typically observed for genes with upregulated expression. Significant differences were found between the genotypes, including earlier and stronger upregulation of the alcohol fermentation pathway and a more rapid return to pre-flooding gene expression levels in the resistant genotype. Our results show how changes in the timing of gene expression following both the induction of flooding and release from flooding stress contribute to increased flooding tolerance.

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