Seed maturation associated transcriptional programs and regulatory networks underlying genotypic difference in seed dormancy and size/weight in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)
Jordan, Mark C
Ayele, Belay T
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Abstract Background Maturation forms one of the critical seed developmental phases and it is characterized mainly by programmed cell death, dormancy and desiccation, however, the transcriptional programs and regulatory networks underlying acquisition of dormancy and deposition of storage reserves during the maturation phase of seed development are poorly understood in wheat. The present study performed comparative spatiotemporal transcriptomic analysis of seed maturation in two wheat genotypes with contrasting seed weight/size and dormancy phenotype. Results The embryo and endosperm tissues of maturing seeds appeared to exhibit genotype-specific temporal shifts in gene expression profile that might contribute to the seed phenotypic variations. Functional annotations of gene clusters suggest that the two tissues exhibit distinct but genotypically overlapping molecular functions. Motif enrichment predicts genotypically distinct abscisic acid (ABA) and gibberellin (GA) regulated transcriptional networks contribute to the contrasting seed weight/size and dormancy phenotypes between the two genotypes. While other ABA responsive element (ABRE) motifs are enriched in both genotypes, the prevalence of G-box-like motif specifically in tissues of the dormant genotype suggests distinct ABA mediated transcriptional mechanisms control the establishment of dormancy during seed maturation. In agreement with this, the bZIP transcription factors that co-express with ABRE enriched embryonic genes differ with genotype. The enrichment of SITEIIATCYTC motif specifically in embryo clusters of maturing seeds irrespective of genotype predicts a tissue specific role for the respective TCP transcription factors with no or minimal contribution to the variations in seed dormancy. Conclusion The results of this study advance our understanding of the seed maturation associated molecular mechanisms underlying variation in dormancy and weight/size in wheat seeds, which is a critical step towards the designing of molecular strategies for enhancing seed yield and quality.