Global gene expression analysis in etiolated and de-etiolated seedlings in conifers
PLoS ONE 2019, 14(7): e0219272

Ranade SS, Delhomme N, García-Gil MR

Abstract
Plant life cycle begins with germination of seed below the ground. This is followed by seedling’s development in the dark: skotomorphogenesis; and then a light-mediated growth: photomorphogenesis. After germination, hypocotyl grows rapidly to reach the sun, which involves elongation of shoot at the expense of root and cotyledons. Upon reaching ground level, seedling gets exposed to sunlight following a switch from the etiolated (skotomorphogenesis) to the de-etiolated (photomorphogenesis) stage, involving a series of molecular and physiological changes. Gymnosperms have evolved very differently and adopted diverse strategies as compared to angiosperms; with regards to response to light quality, conifers display a very mild high-irradiance response as compared to angiosperms. Absence of apical hook and synthesis of chlorophyll during skotomorphogenesis are two typical features in gymnosperms which differentiate them from angiosperms (dicots). Information regarding etiolation and de-etiolation processes are well understood in angiosperms, but these mechanisms are less explored in conifer species. It is, therefore, interesting to know how similar these processes are in conifers as compared to angiosperms. We performed a global expression analysis (RNA sequencing) on etiolated and de-etiolated seedlings of two economically important conifer species in Sweden to review the differentially expressed genes associated with the two processes. Based on the results, we propose that high levels of HY5 in conifers under DARK condition coupled with expression of few other genes associated with de-etiolation in angiosperms e.g. SPA, DET1 (lower expression under DARK) and CRY1 (higher expression under DARK), leads to partial expression of photomorphogenic genes in the DARK phenotype in conifers as displayed by absence of apical hook, opening of cotyledons and synthesis of chlorophyll.

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