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Genome-wide analysis of LTR-retrotransposon expression in leaves of Populus × canadensis water-deprived plants

Giordani, Tommaso, Cossu, Rosa Maria, Mascagni, Flavia, Marroni, Fabio, Morgante, Michele, Cavallini, Andrea, Natali, Lucia
Tree genetics & genomes 2016 v.12 no.4 pp. 75
Populus canadensis, RNA, chromatin, drought, gene expression regulation, genes, high-throughput nucleotide sequencing, hybrids, leaves, methylation, retrotransposons, transcription (genetics), water deprivation
Retrotransposons represent a major component of plant genomes; however, large-scale studies on their expression are rare. Massively parallel sequencing offers new analytical possibilities enabling a comprehensive study of retrotransposon RNA transcription. We evaluated the expression of long terminal repeat-retrotransposons in leaves of two sister hybrids Populus × canadensis (P. deltoides × P. nigra), subjected to moderate or severe water deprivation by mapping Illumina RNA-Seq reads onto a set of 958 unique full-length retrotransposons of P. trichocarpa. Detectable levels of transcription were ascertained for 140 retrotransposons in 1 hybrid and 182 in the other. The two hybrids showed different retrotransposon expression levels, and these differences reduced at increasing drought levels. The number of expressed Gypsy elements in control and water-deprived plants was higher than those of Copia, as were their expression levels. The two hybrids showed different retrotransposon expression patterns following water deprivation. Such variations between hybrids were related to differential expression of a few genes involved in chromatin methylation and remodeling. Overall, our data indicate that even in genetically close individuals, large differences can occur in retrotransposon expression, with possible consequences for genome differentiation.