Comparative transcriptome analysis of microsclerotia development in Nomuraea rileyi
© Song et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013
Received: 15 January 2013
Accepted: 7 June 2013
Published: 19 June 2013
Nomuraea rileyi is used as an environmental-friendly biopesticide. However, mass production and commercialization of this organism are limited due to its fastidious growth and sporulation requirements. When cultured in amended medium, we found that N. rileyi could produce microsclerotia bodies, replacing conidiophores as the infectious agent. However, little is known about the genes involved in microsclerotia development. In the present study, the transcriptomes were analyzed using next-generation sequencing technology to find the genes involved in microsclerotia development.
A total of 4.69 Gb of clean nucleotides comprising 32,061 sequences was obtained, and 20,919 sequences were annotated (about 65%). Among the annotated sequences, only 5928 were annotated with 34 gene ontology (GO) functional categories, and 12,778 sequences were mapped to 165 pathways by searching against the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathway (KEGG) database. Furthermore, we assessed the transcriptomic differences between cultures grown in minimal and amended medium. In total, 4808 sequences were found to be differentially expressed; 719 differentially expressed unigenes were assigned to 25 GO classes and 1888 differentially expressed unigenes were assigned to 161 KEGG pathways, including 25 enrichment pathways. Subsequently, we examined the up-regulation or uniquely expressed genes following amended medium treatment, which were also expressed on the enrichment pathway, and found that most of them participated in mediating oxidative stress homeostasis. To elucidate the role of oxidative stress in microsclerotia development, we analyzed the diversification of unigenes using quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (RT-qPCR).
Our findings suggest that oxidative stress occurs during microsclerotia development, along with a broad metabolic activity change. Our data provide the most comprehensive sequence resource available for the study of N. rileyi. We believe that the transcriptome datasets will serve as an important public information platform to accelerate studies on N. rileyi microsclerotia.
Nomuraea rileyi is a well-known fungal pathogen thriving in a range of obligate hosts, particularly the noctuids. It affects polyphagous species of Heliothis, Spodoptera, Pseudoplusia, Trichoplusia, Plutella, and Rachiplusia[1, 2], and hence, can be used as a mycoinsecticide. However, the lack of reliable cost-effective protocols for mass production of this entomopathogenic fungus limits its commercialization. The present mass productions methods are not cost effective and require special growth conditions (stimulatory light and maltose) for sporulation . As a result, there is a need to find an active agent for commercial production of N. rileyi. Microsclerotium (MS), with a diameter of 200–600 μm, is a pseudoparenchymatous aggregation of hyphae, comprising only a few cells. It is produced by many phytopathogenic fungi for persistence in the soil and decaying plant material. The structures of fungal phytopathogen, including the infective and spreading structures, help them to survive for long periods in the environment [4, 5]. MS production was successfully induced in phytopathogenic fungus [6, 7] and entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae during submerged liquid culture fermentation. Our laboratory successfully realized MS production by N. rileyi on liquid amended medium (AM), which exhibited insecticidal efficacy on Spodoptera litura, and thus can be used as an active agent (data not shown).
The morphological events that occur during microsclerotia production have been studied extensively [9, 10]. A mature MS has been observed to exhibit three distinct layers: a pigmented rind, a thin-walled cortex, and a large central medulla [11, 12]. During the initial stages of development, the hyphae swell and aggregate. The aggregations subsequently enlarge and the pigment emerges. In the final phase, the pigment gets deposited within the cell wall. The mature microsclerotia can disperse in the environment as persistent infective propagules, affecting a broad range of herbaceous and woody hosts .
The potentially important genes in microsclerotia development have already been investigated. Two expressed sequence tag (EST) libraries developed from different cultures of a tomato isolate strain Verticillium dahliae, were found to exhibit the most unique sequences, of which 55% had protein sequences similar to those presented in the database . Based on the EST databases, VDH1, a hydrophobin gene, was confirmed to be involved in microsclerotia development [15, 16]. Subsequently, using the Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation (ATMT) method, the role of the gene in microsclerotia development was identified. In addition to targeted gene disruption by homologous recombination, the ATMT has been successfully exploited for large-scale forward genetic screen to create insertional mutants. A gene that encodes glutamic acid-rich protein and affects microsclerotia formation and pathogenicity was identified by the ATMT . It has been reported that the physiological and morphological differences during microsclerotia development should be, at least in part, due to numerous genes expressed at various development stages [18–21]. Transcript profiling is an important strategy for studying the expression of large genes. Although EST sequencing has been used for the detection of reference transcripts, it has some inherent limitations, such as low throughput, high cost, and long experimental cycle. Recently, next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology has emerged for high-throughput sequence determination, which is quite economical . The RNA-Seq technology has enabled us to investigate the transcriptome for various gene expression studies without reference genome sequences .
In the present study, the NGS technology was used to examine the transcriptome of MS of N. rileyi. We constructed two libraries sequenced using Illumina HiSeq™ 2000 based on N. rileyi cultures grown in liquid AM and minimal medium (MM), which produced abundant MS and mycelium, respectively. Subsequently, we analyzed the expression of 32,061 unigenes, found the differentially expressed genes related to MS development, compared the up-regulation of the expression of unigenes in the AM libraries, and validated some unigenes based on different development stages by using RT-qPCR. The two assembled and annotated transcriptome sequences provide an invaluable resource for the identification of N. rileyi involved in MS development.
Illumina sequencing and reads assembly
Summary of the sequence assembly after Illumina sequencing
Average read length
Mean length of contigs
Mean length of unigenes
Mean length of sequences
A total of 32,061 sequences were assembled, with an average of 933 bp and an N50 of 1522 bp (Table 1). The size distribution of those sequences is shown in Additional file 1: Figure S1. Among the sequences, 19,788 were longer than 500 bp, 11,626 were longer than 1000 bp, and 3896 were longer than 2000 bp (Additional file 1: Figure S1B).
All-unigenes annotation provides functional information, including protein sequence similarities, clusters of orthologous groups (COG), gene ontology (GO), and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathway database (KEGG) pathway information. For annotation, the sequences were compared with the protein databases (NCBI Nr, SwissProt, KEGG, and COG) using BLASTX (E-value <10−5), and the protein functions were predicted from the annotations of the most similar proteins. The sequences were first searched using BLASTX against the NCBI Nr database, and 20,919 sequences (65.25%) had hits that exceeded the E-value cutoff (Additional file 2: Figure S2). A total of 13,385 sequences (41.75%) were identified from the SwissProt database.
The 20,919 nr hits were mapped to the reference canonical pathways in KEGG. In total, 12,778 sequences were assigned to 165 KEGG pathways. To identify the biological pathways that are active in different ways among the two treatments, a total of 1888 differentially expressed sequences was assigned to 161 KEGG pathways. With significant enrichment pathways, we could discern the main biochemical and signal transduction pathways. After multiple testing corrections, we chose pathways with Qvalue ≤ 0.05 as significantly enriched among the differentially expressed genes. In total, 26 significant enrichment pathways were detected. The enrichment pathways that were most represented were the biosynthesis of secondary metabolites (305 members), metabolic pathways (721 members), and microbial metabolism in diverse environments (300 members). These annotations are valuable resource for the comparison of processes, functions, and pathways in MS research.
Detection of upregulated genes related to MS development
Following AM and MM treatments, a total of 4808 differentially expressed unigenes were identified. Among the 4808 unigenes, 1538 were up-regulated and 322 were induced to express during AM treatment. Sequence analyses revealed that out of the 1538 unigenes, 691 (44.93%) showed no homology with known sequences and were classified as “no hits”. Among the 322 unigenes, 165 (51.24%) were found to have known functions. We identified a number of unigenes that were induced during AM treatment as well as expressed in the enrichment pathways, such as bifunctional P-450:NADPH-P450 reductase (unigene24005), FAD binding domain protein (unigene23494), glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (unigene23268), heat-shock protein (unigene23729, unigene23337, unigene22930, and unigene22875), SUR2-type hydroxylase/desaturase (unigene23801), delta-9 desaturase isoenzyme B (unigene23839), acyl-CoA desaturase (unigene23046), and NADP-dependent mannitol dehydrogenase (unigene23414). Although these unigenes were noted to play different roles in various metabolisms, they were found to be commonly involved in oxidative stress detoxification. This indicates that oxidative stress may occur during MS development [27, 28].
To confirm the results of the Solexa/Illumina sequencing, the following 17 unigenes, up- regulated or uniquely expressed following AM treatment, were selected for RT- qPCR assays: superoxide dismutase (SOD; unigene5568), catalase (CAT; unigene2410), heat-shock protein (SSC1; unigene23729), glutathione synthase (GS; unigene5050), glutathione S transferase (GSTs; unigene13979), glutathione reductase (GR; unigene22615), polyketone synthase (Pks; unigene22495), delta-9 desaturase isoenzyme B (DB; unigene23839), 2OG-Fe (II) oxygenase family oxidoreductase (FO; unigene1892), pyruvate carboxylase (PYC; unigene3898), pyruvate decarboxylase (PDC; unigene9437), aspartate aminotransferase (AST; unigene12484), alanine aminotransferase (MAC; unigene9129), aspartate-tRNA ligase (ARS; unigene18089), prolyl-tRNA synthase (PRS; unigene16762), acetoacetyl-CoA synthase (ACS; unigene22462), and vacuolar ATP synthase catalytic subunit A (ATP-synt A; unigene18015).
High-throughput mRNA sequencing technology is particularly suitable for gene expression profiling in non-model organisms without prior genome annotation . In the present study, we used NGS technology, based on the Illumina HiSeq™ 2000 platform, obtained 9.2 Gb of coverage with 52,200,794 clean sequencing reads, and identified 32,061 all-unigenes from two libraries with a mean length of 933. Among them, 20,919 (65.25%) unigenes were successfully annotated. Among the two transcriptomes, approximately 4800 unigenes were found to be differentially expressed. The results of the present study expand on those reported in microsclerotia studies based on EST sequencing, and provide more comprehensive genetic and genomic information [14, 29].
During the undifferentiated (UD) stage of MS, similar to other phytopathogenic fungi, there is abundant hyphal growth, accompanied by material and energy metabolism. In the present study, numerous related genes were found to be up-regulated during this stage (Figure 3). Furthermore, the natural byproducts of mitochondrial respiration and oxygen consumption were noted to be converted to ROS, such as superoxide anion radical (O2−). This is the initial step in the formation of ROS by donating a single electron to the oxygen molecule (O2), as well as a product of important enzymes such as xanthine oxidase (XO) and NADPH oxidase [30, 31]. However, O2− radical is not highly oxidizing, and subsequently produces H2O2 to exert its toxic role. H2O2 can capture an electron from another O2− or free ferrous (Fe2+) and cuprous ions, forming hydroxyl radical (OH), which is highly reactive and causes lipid peroxidation; one of the major end products of lipid peroxidation had been shown to be involved in signal transduction . Furthermore, H2O2 is stable and can cross cell membrane. Thus, although H2O2 is a harmful metabolic byproduct, it also functions as a ubiquitous intracellular messenger. Different levels of H2O2 can induce distinct responses within a cell, especially for the proper development and proliferation of cells [25, 33, 34].
Enzymatic defenses against O2− include SOD that dismute O2− to H2O2 in fungi , and the organisms defend against H2O2 mainly by CAT to catalytically decompose it to H2O and O2. In the present study, unigene5568, annotated as sod, was highly expressed in the AM library. In particular, the expression level increased between the development and maturation stages (Figure 3). An earlier study also reported a similar finding during MS development in Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. In the present study, maximum consumption of O2 was observed at the MS initiation (SI) period (data not shown), demonstrating that O2− was continuously produced and the alteration occurred between the UD and SI period. The unigenes (cat, unigene11956, unigene13044, unigene13045, and unigene19140) were highly expressed in the AM library, and their expression was the highest during the SI period (Figure 3). Among the basal salts in the AM culture, Fe2+ was noted to promote MS biogenesis (data not shown), which could catalyze the formation of OH. radicals. In the present study, the expression of unigene1892 (fo) was not only high in the AM library, but was also relatively highest during the SI period (Figure 3). Thus, the generation of ROS may play an important role in the induction of MS formation, as observed in other filamentous fungi [38, 39]. Furthermore, enzymes involved in the detoxification of free radicals also appear to have important role during MS development.
Generation of ROS has forced many organisms to devise complex antioxidant defense, such as thioredoxin (TRX), glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (G3PDH), and reduced glutathione (GSH). The GSH, in particular, has been shown to be the main non-enzymatic antioxidant defense, helping to maintain the reduced environment of cytosol, and can be used as a substrate to detoxify the cell from oxidant xenobiotic molecules using GSTs to form oxidized glutathione (GSSG) . GR is a ubiquitous flavor enzyme of disulfide reductase family, which catalyzes the NADPH-dependent reduction of GSSG to GSH. These enzymes maintain the balance of the redox couple (GSSG/GSH). The expression of unigenes (gs, gr, and gsts) of functional redox systems involved in the balance of thiol and oxydic glutathione was high in the AM library, and highest during the SI period (Figure 3).This shows the increase in the oxidative stress associated reduced thiol when the undifferentiated mycelium enters the differentiated state , which can combat the incremental oxidative stress during MS development. Other stress regulators, such as heat-shock proteins, play important role during oxidative stress, and have well-established roles during different stress conditions in the organism and are up-regulated during stress [41, 42]. The unigene (ssc1) showed prominent multiple peaks in RT-qPCR and illustrated regulatory activity under oxidative stress (Figure 3).
ROS are not only inevitable byproducts of oxygen metabolism, but also play a role in cellular signaling, which mediates or augments the effects of growth factors, cell differentiation, and programmed cell death . Based on the AM library, the dynamic activity of MS was found to be cell differentiation during the SI period (Figure 1), and the doses of H2O2 were presumed to reach a certain level (Figure 3) or “sub-poison” concentration [33, 34]. The levels of ROS accumulated during stress condition and their subcellular source were noted to determine the expression pattern of specific genes and induction of stress responsive pathways . Much of this response appeared to be designed to decrease energy production and biochemical processes. In this regard, the TCA cycle was reported to be a significant source of reducing equivalents. The regulation of the two genes, pyc and pdc, related to pyruvate carboxylation, was low (5 and 13 folds, respectively; Figure 3), and the induction of genes of amino acid and fatty acid metabolism was 10 and 30 folds (mac, ast, acs), respectively. These findings indicate that low-level metabolism may be important to balance the generation of proton. In addition, several other genes (prs, ars, ATP-synt A) were also significantly down-regulated during this period (Figure 3).
The pigment granules were found to be deposited on the rind during Nomuraea rileyi MS formation, but not during melanin production [6–8]. An earlier study examined the biosynthetic pathway of the pigment in other fungi . In our transcriptome, the unigene22495, identified as pks, was observed to be involved in the biosynthesis of the pigment. The abundance of this gene increased significantly between the SI and MS development (SM) period (Figure 3), and the change in genotype was in accordance with the phenotype. It has been demonstrated that pigment production can be uncoupled from other morphological changes associated with MS development [14, 46]. Two unigenes (acs and db) were noted to be involved in the metabolism of lipid acid. The db gene increased significantly during the SI period (Figure 3), indicating that the unsaturated lipid acid participates in resisting oxidative stress. Similarly, the acs gene was maintained at high levels during the UD period and remained at certain expression level during other periods (Figure 3), implying that the gene not only takes part in lipid metabolism, but is also related to the biosynthetic pathway of the pigment .
In the present study, a large number of differentially expressed genes involved in MS development were found. We analyzed the expression pattern of these differentially expressed genes, particularly, their up-regulation and unique unigenes in the AM libraries. These unigenes were found to primarily code for stress-responsive genes or a part of the cell machinery underlying the biogenesis of various bodies; however, numerous genes with unknown functions were also noted .These results indicate that oxidative stress takes place during MS differentiation, and the signaling genes should be further identified. Overall, this study suggests that fungi employ various pathways and regulatory networks of genes in response to different culture conditions, and demonstrated at the genetic level that MS differentiation in N. rileyi is related to high oxidative stress.
Using the Illumina sequencing, we surveyed the two transcriptomes of N. rileyi under different culture conditions, assembled 32,061 unigenes, annotated 20,919 of those unigenes, and found 4808 differentially expressed unigenes among the two libraries. Our findings substantially contribute to the existing sequence resources for N. rileyi, and will certainly accelerate the research on MS development. In addition, the de novo transcriptome analysis of non-model organism without prior genome annotation has again been successfully demonstrated in this study. The genes data will provide a portfolio of candidate genes for further research on the gene expression, genomics, and functional genomics of N. rileyi.
Strain and growth conditions
N. rileyi strain was obtained from the Genetic Engineering Research Center, Chongqing, China. The strain was grown on Sabouraud maltose agar fortified with 1% yeast extract (SMAY) for 14 days, under continuous light at 25°C. The conidia suspension, suspended in sterile deionized water with 0.5% Tween 80 (Sigma-Aldrich, America) at a concentration of 1 × 108 conidia/mL, was inoculated in a 100-mL liquid medium (in flask) and incubated in a shaker at 25°C and 200 rpm. The MM (consisting of 40 g/L of glucose, 2.5 g/L of peptone, and 5 g/L of yeast extract) was designed to reflect the nutritional conditions of hypha development. The AM (comprising 40 g/L of glucose, 2.5 g/L of peptone, 5 g/L of yeast extract, 4.0 g/L of KH2PO4, 0.8 g/L of CaCl2.2H2O, 0.6 g/L of MgSO4.7H2O, 0.1 g/L of FeSO4.7H2O, 37 mg/L of CoCl2.6H2O, 16 mg/L of MnSO4.H2O, and 14 mg/L of ZnSO4.7H2O) contained substances that could induce the development of MS. The development stages, including UD, SI, MS development (SD), and SM, of N. rileyi were confirmed in 2, 3.5, 4, and 5 days, respectively. Two samples, separately cultured in the liquid MM and AM for 3.5 days, were collected using Whitman filter paper. The mycelia tissues were separated from MS using forceps and washed twice with distilled autoclaved water. Subsequently, the two samples were frozen at −80°C until further use.
RNA isolation and library preparation for transcriptome analysis
Total RNA was isolated using the TRIzol® reagent (Invitrogen, USA). The RNA samples were then digested using DNase I for 30 min at 37°C to remove potential genomic DNA. RNA integrity was confirmed using the 2100 Bioanalyzer. The mRNA was purified from total RNA using oligo (dT) magnetic beads. Subsequently, the mRNA was fragmented into small pieces using divalent cations under elevated temperature. The cleaved RNA fragments were used for first-strand cDNA synthesis by employing random primers. The second-strand cDNA synthesis was carried out using DNA polymerase I and RNase H. These cDNA fragments were subjected to an end repair process and ligation of adapters. Subsequently, these products were enriched by PCR to create the final libraries (AM and MM).
Analysis of Illumina sequencing results
The sequencing library was sequenced using the HiSeqTM2000 platform (Illumina). Over 26 million sequence raw reads were generated for the analysis. The adaptor fragments were removed from the raw reads to yield the clean reads required for the analysis. De novo transcriptome assembly of these short reads was carried out with short reads assembling program –Trinity . Trinity first combined the reads with certain length of overlap to form longer fragments without N, using “N” to represent unknown sequences. These contigs were utilized for further process of cluster using sequence clustering software to form longer sequences without N . These sequences were defined as unigenes. Unigenes from each sample’s assembly were subjected to further sequence splicing and redundancy removal using sequence clustering software to acquire non-redundant unigenes as long as possible. These were designated as all-unigenes.
For further analysis, we used BLASTX (E-value < 10−5) to compare between unigenes and protein databases such as NCBI nr, Swiss-Prot, KEGG, and COG, and the best aligning results were used to decide the sequence direction of the unigenes. Unigene annotation provided information regarding the expression and functional annotation of the identified genes. With nr annotation, we used Blast2GO program to obtain GO annotation of the unigenes. After acquiring the GO annotation for every unigene, we used WEGO software to carry out GO functional classification for all-unigenes and understand the distribution of gene functions of the species at the macro level. The COG and KEGG pathways annotation was carried out using Blastall software against COG (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/COG) and KEGG (http://www.genome.jp/kegg/) database .
Gene validation and expression analysis
One differentially expressed gene with potential roles in MS development was chosen for validation using RT-qPCR (the primers designed for RT-qPCR analyses are shown in Additional file 5: Figure S2). The samples, cultured in the liquid AM for 2, 3.5, and 5days, were respectively collected, and the mycelia tissues were separated from MS using forceps. Subsequently, the mycelia were washed with sterile distilled water for at least two times. The total RNA was extracted using the TRIzol® reagent (Invitrogen, USA) and purified with RNA purification kit (Qiagen, USA). The first-strand cDNA fragment was synthesized from purified RNA. A total of 17 genes were chosen for RT-qPCR. All the genes were first subjected to RT-PCR analysis, and the gel was run to obtain suitable conditions for RT-qPCR analysis. The RT-qPCR reaction was performed according to the protocol of Green Mastermix (Qiagen, USA). Three biological duplicates of each sample and triplicates of each reaction were acquired. The genes tef and tub were used for calibration in all the experiments. The expression ratios were calculated from cycle threshold values using the 2−△△CT method.
This study was financially supported by Special Fund for Agro-scientific in the Public Interest (Project 201103002) and State 863 Project of China (Project 2011AA10A201).
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