Prediction of components of the sporopollenin synthesis pathway in peach by genomic and expression analyses
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Background: The outer cell wall of the pollen grain (exine) is an extremely resistant structure containing sporopollenin, a mixed polymer made up of fatty acids and phenolic compounds. The synthesis of sporopollenin in the tapetal cells and its proper deposition on the pollen surface are essential for the development of viable pollen. The beginning of microsporogenesis and pollen maturation in perennial plants from temperate climates, such as peach, is conditioned by the duration of flower bud dormancy. In order to identify putative genes involved in these processes, we analyzed the results of previous genomic experiments studying the dormancy-dependent gene expression in different peach cultivars. Results: The expression of 50 genes induced in flower buds after the endodormancy period (flower-bud late genes) was compared in ten cultivars of peach with different dormancy behaviour. We found two co-expression clusters enriched in putative orthologs of sporopollenin synthesis and deposition factors in Arabidopsis. Flower-bud late genes were transiently expressed in anthers coincidently with microsporogenesis and pollen maturation processes. We postulated the participation of some flower-bud late genes in the sporopollenin synthesis pathway and the transcriptional regulation of late anther development in peach. Conclusions: Peach and the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana show multiple elements in common within the essential sporopollenin synthesis pathway and gene expression regulatory mechanisms affecting anther development. The transcriptomic analysis of dormancy-released flower buds proved to be an efficient procedure for the identification of anther and pollen development genes in perennial plants showing seasonal dormancy.