Expressed sequence tags from the Yukon ecotype of Thellungiella reveal that gene expression in response to cold, drought and salinity shows little overlap
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Thellungiella salsuginea (also known as T. halophila) is a close relative of Arabidopsis that is very tolerant of drought, freezing, and salinity and may be an appropriate model to identify the molecular mechanisms underlying abiotic stress tolerance in plants. We produced 6578 ESTs, which represented 3628 unique genes (unigenes), from cDNA libraries of cold-, drought-, and salinity-stressed plants from the Yukon ecotype of Thellungiella. Among the unigenes, 94.1% encoded products that were most similar in amino acid sequence to Arabidopsis and 1.5% had no match with a member of the family Brassicaceae. Unigenes from the cold library were more similar to Arabidopsis sequences than either drought- or salinity-induced sequences, indicating that latter responses may be more divergent between Thellungiella and Arabidopsis. Analysis of gene ontology using the best matched Arabidopsis locus showed that the Thellungiella unigenes represented all biological processes and all cellular components, with the highest number of sequences attributed to the chloroplast and mitochondria. Only 140 of the unigenes were found in all three abiotic stress cDNA libraries. Of these common unigenes, 70% have no known function, which demonstrates that Thellungiella can be a rich resource of genetic information about environmental responses. Some of the ESTs in this collection have low sequence similarity with those in Genbank suggesting that they may encode functions that may contribute to Thellungiella's high degree of stress tolerance when compared with Arabidopsis. Moreover, Thellungiella is a closer relative of agriculturally important Brassica spp. than Arabidopsis, which may prove valuable in transferring information to crop improvement programs.
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