Transcriptome Profiling of Wheat Inflorescence Development from Spikelet Initiation to Floral Patterning Identified Stage-Specific Regulatory Genes

Nan Feng, Gaoyuan Song, Jiantao Guan, Kai Chen, Meiling Jia, Dehua Huang, Jiajie Wu, Lichao Zhang, Xiuying Kong, Shuaifeng Geng, Jun Liu, Aili Li, Long Mao
Plant Physiology 2017, 174 (3): 1779-1794
Early reproductive development in cereals is crucial for final grain number per spike and hence the yield potential of the crop. To date, however, no systematic analyses of gene expression profiles during this important process have been conducted for common wheat ( Triticum aestivum ). Here, we studied the transcriptome profiles at four stages of early wheat reproductive development, from spikelet initiation to floral organ differentiation. K -means clustering and stage-specific transcript identification detected dynamically expressed homeologs of important transcription regulators in spikelet and floral meristems that may be involved in spikelet initiation, floret meristem specification, and floral organ patterning, as inferred from their homologs in model plants. Small RNA transcriptome sequencing discovered key microRNAs that were differentially expressed during wheat inflorescence development alongside their target genes, suggesting that miRNA-mediated regulatory mechanisms for floral development may be conserved in cereals and Arabidopsis. Our analysis was further substantiated by the functional characterization of the ARGONAUTE1d ( AGO1d ) gene, which was initially expressed in stamen primordia and later in the tapetum during anther maturation. In agreement with its stage-specific expression pattern, the loss of function of the predominantly expressed B homeolog of AGO1d in a tetraploid durum wheat mutant resulted in smaller anthers with more infertile pollens than the wild type and a reduced grain number per spike. Together, our work provides a first glimpse of the gene regulatory networks in wheat inflorescence development that may be pivotal for floral and grain development, highlighting potential targets for genetic manipulation to improve future wheat yields.

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