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Identification, Classification and Differential Expression of Oleosin Genes in Tung Tree (Vernicia fordii)

Heping Cao, Lin Zhang, Xiaofeng Tan, Hongxu Long, Jay M. Shockey
PLosOne 2014 v.9 no.2 pp. 1-21
sequence alignment, phylogeny, trees, Prunus persica, genes, Ricinus communis, lipid bodies, Theobroma cacao, proline, Populus trichocarpa, gene expression, Vitis vinifera, gene expression regulation, tung oil, oleosin, leaves, messenger RNA, Arabidopsis, Vernicia fordii, seeds, triacylglycerols, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, castor beans, peaches, flowers, seed development
Triacylglycerols (TAG) are the major molecules of energy storage in eukaryotes. TAG are packed in subcellular structures called oil bodies or lipid droplets. Oleosins (OLE) are the major proteins in plant oil bodies. Multiple isoforms of OLE are present in plants such as tung tree (Vernicia fordii), whose seeds are rich in novel TAG with a wide range of industrial applications. The objectives of this study were to identify OLE genes, classify OLE proteins and analyze OLE gene expression in tung trees. We identified five tung tree OLE genes coding for small hydrophobic proteins. Genome-wide phylogenetic analysis and multiple sequence alignment demonstrated that the five tung OLE genes represented the five OLE subfamilies and all contained the ‘‘proline knot’’ motif (PX5SPX3P) shared among 65 OLE from 19 tree species, including the sequenced genomes of Prunus persica (peach), Populus trichocarpa (poplar), Ricinus communis (castor bean), Theobroma cacao (cacao) and Vitis vinifera (grapevine). Tung OLE1, OLE2 and OLE3 belong to the S type and OLE4 and OLE5 belong to the SM type of Arabidopsis OLE. TaqMan and SYBR Green qPCR methods were used to study the differential expression of OLE genes in tung tree tissues. Expression results demonstrated that 1) All five OLE genes were expressed in developing tung seeds, leaves and flowers; 2) OLE mRNA levels were much higher in seeds than leaves or flowers; 3) OLE1, OLE2 and OLE3 genes were expressed in tung seeds at much higher levels than OLE4 and OLE5 genes; 4) OLE mRNA levels rapidly increased during seed development; and 5) OLE gene expression was well-coordinated with tung oil accumulation in the seeds. These results suggest that tung OLE genes 1–3 probably play major roles in tung oil accumulation and/or oil body development. Therefore, they might be preferred targets for tung oil engineering in transgenic plants.