Evolutionary history of tall fescue morphotypes inferred from molecular phylogenetics of the Lolium-Festuca species complex.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:The agriculturally important pasture grass tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb. syn. Lolium arundinaceum (Schreb.) Darbysh.) is an outbreeding allohexaploid, that may be more accurately described as a species complex consisting of three major (Continental, Mediterranean and rhizomatous) morphotypes. Observation of hybrid infertility in some crossing combinations between morphotypes suggests the possibility of independent origins from different diploid progenitors. This study aims to clarify the evolutionary relationships between each tall fescue morphotype through phylogenetic analysis using two low-copy nuclear genes (encoding plastid acetyl-CoA carboxylase [Acc1] and centroradialis [CEN]), the nuclear ribosomal DNA internal transcribed spacer (rDNA ITS) and the chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) genome-located matK gene. Other taxa within the closely related Lolium-Festuca species complex were also included in the study, to increase understanding of evolutionary processes in a taxonomic group characterised by multiple inter-specific hybridisation events. RESULTS:Putative homoeologous sequences from both nuclear genes were obtained from each polyploid species and compared to counterparts from 15 diploid taxa. Phylogenetic reconstruction confirmed F. pratensis and F. arundinacea var. glaucescens as probable progenitors to Continental tall fescue, and these species are also likely to be ancestral to the rhizomatous morphotype. However, these two morphotypes are sufficiently distinct to be located in separate clades based on the ITS-derived data set. All four of the generated data sets suggest independent evolution of the Mediterranean and Continental morphotypes, with minimal affinity between cognate sequence haplotypes. No obvious candidate progenitor species for Mediterranean tall fescues were identified, and only two putative sub-genome-specific haplotypes were identified for this morphotype. CONCLUSIONS:This study describes the first phylogenetic analysis of the Festuca genus to include representatives of each tall fescue morphotype, and to use low copy nuclear gene-derived sequences to identify putative progenitors of the polyploid species. The demonstration of distinct tall fescue lineages has implications for both taxonomy and molecular breeding strategies, and may facilitate the generation of morphotype and/or sub-genome-specific molecular markers.
Project description:Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) is an important cool-season perennial grass species used as forage and turf, and in conservation plantings. There are three morphotypes in hexaploid tall fescue: Continental, Mediterranean and Rhizomatous. This study was conducted to develop morphotype-specific molecular markers to distinguish Continental and Mediterranean tall fescues, and establish their relationships with other species of the Festuca genus for genomic inference. Chloroplast sequence variation and simple sequence repeat (SSR) polymorphism were explored in 12 genotypes of three tall fescue morphotypes and four Festuca species. Hypervariable chloroplast regions were retrieved by using 33 specifically designed primers followed by sequencing the PCR products. SSR polymorphism was studied using 144 tall fescue SSR primers. Four chloroplast (NFTCHL17, NFTCHL43, NFTCHL45 and NFTCHL48) and three SSR (nffa090, nffa204 and nffa338) markers were identified which can distinctly differentiate Continental and Mediterranean morphotypes. A primer pair, NFTCHL45, amplified a 47 bp deletion between the two morphotypes is being routinely used in the Noble Research Institute's core facility for morphotype discrimination. Both chloroplast sequence variation and SSR diversity showed a close association between Rhizomatous and Continental morphotypes, while the Mediterranean morphotype was in a distant clade. F. pratensis and F. arundinacea var. glaucescens, the P and G1G2 genome donors, respectively, were grouped with the Continental clade, and F. mairei (M1M2 genome) grouped with the Mediterranean clade in chloroplast sequence variation, while both F. pratensis and F. mairei formed independent clade in SSR analysis. Age estimation based on chloroplast sequence variation indicated that the Continental and Mediterranean clades might have been colonized independently during 0.65 ± 0.06 and 0.96 ± 0.1 million years ago (Mya) respectively. The findings of the study will enhance tall fescue breeding for persistence and productivity.
Project description:Festuca arundinacea Schreb., commonly known as tall fescue, is a major forage crop in temperate regions. Recently, a molecular analysis of different accessions of a world germplasm collection of tall fescue has demonstrated that it contains different species from the genus Festuca and allowed their rapid classification into the three major morphotypes (Continental, Mediterranean and Rhizomatous). In this study, we explored the genetic diversity of 161 accessions of Festuca species from 29 countries, including 28 accessions of INTA (Argentina), by analyzing 15 polymorphic SSR markers by capillary electrophoresis. These molecular markers allowed us to detect a total of 214 alleles. The number of alleles per locus varied between 5 and 24, and the values of polymorphic information content ranged from 0.627 to 0.840. In addition, the accessions analyzed by flow cytometry showed different ploidy levels (diploid, tetraploid, hexaploid and octaploid), placing in evidence that the world germplasm collection consisted of multiple species, as previously suggested. Interestingly, almost all accessions of INTA germplasm collection were true hexaploid tall fescue, belonging to two eco-geographic races (Continental and Mediterranean). Finally, the data presented revealed an ample genetic diversity of tall fescue showing the importance of preserving the INTA collection for future breeding programs.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) provide essential tools for the advancement of research in plant genomics, and the development of SNP resources for many species has been accelerated by the capabilities of second-generation sequencing technologies. The current study aimed to develop and use a novel bioinformatic pipeline to generate a comprehensive collection of SNP markers within the agriculturally important pasture grass tall fescue; an outbreeding allopolyploid species displaying three distinct morphotypes: Continental, Mediterranean and rhizomatous. RESULTS: A bioinformatic pipeline was developed that successfully identified SNPs within genotypes from distinct tall fescue morphotypes, following the sequencing of 414 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) - generated amplicons using 454 GS FLX technology. Equivalent amplicon sets were derived from representative genotypes of each morphotype, including six Continental, five Mediterranean and one rhizomatous. A total of 8,584 and 2,292 SNPs were identified with high confidence within the Continental and Mediterranean morphotypes respectively. The success of the bioinformatic approach was demonstrated through validation (at a rate of 70%) of a subset of 141 SNPs using both SNaPshot™ and GoldenGate™ assay chemistries. Furthermore, the quantitative genotyping capability of the GoldenGate™ assay revealed that approximately 30% of the putative SNPs were accessible to co-dominant scoring, despite the hexaploid genome structure. The sub-genome-specific origin of each SNP validated from Continental tall fescue was predicted using a phylogenetic approach based on comparison with orthologous sequences from predicted progenitor species. CONCLUSIONS: Using the appropriate bioinformatic approach, amplicon resequencing based on 454 GS FLX technology is an effective method for the identification of polymorphic SNPs within the genomes of Continental and Mediterranean tall fescue. The GoldenGate™ assay is capable of high-throughput co-dominant SNP allele detection, and minimises the problems associated with SNP genotyping in a polyploid by effectively reducing the complexity to a diploid system. This SNP collection may now be refined and used in applications such as cultivar identification, genetic linkage map construction, genome-wide association studies and genomic selection in tall fescue. The bioinformatic pipeline described here represents an effective general method for SNP discovery within outbreeding allopolyploid species.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb) is a major cool season forage and turf grass species grown in the temperate regions of the world. In this paper we report the generation of a tall fescue expressed sequence tag (EST) database developed from nine cDNA libraries representing tissues from different plant organs, developmental stages, and abiotic stress factors. The results of inter-library and library-specific in silico expression analyses of these ESTs are also reported. RESULTS: A total of 41,516 ESTs were generated from nine cDNA libraries of tall fescue representing tissues from different plant organs, developmental stages, and abiotic stress conditions. The Festuca Gene Index (FaGI) has been established. To date, this represents the first publicly available tall fescue EST database. In silico gene expression studies using these ESTs were performed to understand stress responses in tall fescue. A large number of ESTs of known stress response gene were identified from stressed tissue libraries. These ESTs represent gene homologues of heat-shock and oxidative stress proteins, and various transcription factor protein families. Highly expressed ESTs representing genes of unknown functions were also identified in the stressed tissue libraries. CONCLUSION: FaGI provides a useful resource for genomics studies of tall fescue and other closely related forage and turf grass species. Comparative genomic analyses between tall fescue and other grass species, including ryegrasses (Lolium sp.), meadow fescue (F. pratensis) and tetraploid fescue (F. arundinacea var glaucescens) will benefit from this database. These ESTs are an excellent resource for the development of simple sequence repeat (SSR) and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) PCR-based molecular markers.
Project description:Epichloid endophytes provide protection from a variety of biotic and abiotic stresses for cool-season grasses, including tall fescue. A collection of 85 tall fescue lines from 15 locations in Greece, including both Continental and Mediterranean germplasm, was screened for the presence of native endophytes. A total of 37 endophyte-infected lines from 10 locations were identified, and the endophytes were classified into five distinct groups (G1 to G5) based on physical characteristics such as colony morphology, growth rate, and conidial morphology. These classifications were supported by phylogenetic analyses of housekeeping genes tefA and tubB, and the endophytes were further categorized as Neotyphodium coenophialum isolates (G1, G4, and G5) or Neotyphodium sp. FaTG-2 (Festuca arundinacea taxonomic group 2 isolates (G2 and G3). Analyses of the tall fescue matK chloroplast genes indicated a population-wide, host-specific association between N. coenophialum and Continental tall fescue and between FaTG-2 and Mediterranean tall fescue that was also reflected by differences in colonization of host tillers by the native endophytes. Genotypic analyses of alkaloid gene loci combined with chemotypic (chemical phenotype) profiles provided insight into the genetic basis of chemotype diversity. Variation in alkaloid gene content, specifically the presence and absence of genes, and copy number of gene clusters explained the alkaloid diversity observed in the endophyte-infected tall fescue, with one exception. The results from this study provide insight into endophyte germplasm diversity present in living tall fescue populations.
Project description:Abscisic acid (ABA) is known to play roles in regulating plant tolerance to various abiotic stresses, but whether ABA's effects on heat tolerance are associated with its regulation of heat stress transcription factors (HSFs) and heat shock proteins (HSPs) is not well documented. The objective of this study was to determine whether improved heat tolerance of tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) by ABA was through the regulation of HSFs and HSPs. ABA-responsive transcriptional factors, ABA-responsive element binding protein 3 (FaAREB3) and dehydration-responsive element binding protein 2A (FaDREB2A) of tall fescue, were able to bind to the cis-elements in the promoter of tall fescue heat stress transcription factor A2c (FaHSFA2c). Exogenous ABA (5 ?M) application enhanced heat tolerance of tall fescue, as manifested by increased leaf photochemical efficiency and membrane stability under heat stress (37/32 °C, day/night). The expression levels of FaHSFA2c, several tall fescue HSPs (FaHSPs), and ABA-responsive transcriptional factors were up-regulated in plants treated with ABA. Deficiency of Arabidopsis heat stress transcription factor A2 (AtHSFA2) suppressed ABA-induction of AtHSPs expression and ABA-improved heat tolerance in Arabidopsis. These results suggested that HSFA2 plays an important role in ABA-mediated plant heat tolerance, and FaAREB3 and FaDREB2A may function as upstream trans-acting factors and regulate transcriptional activity of FaHSFA2c and the downstream FaHSPs, leading to improved heat tolerance.
Project description:Heat stress is a critical challenge to tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) in many areas of the globe and variations in genetic structure and functional traits is for the efficient breeding programs on developing heat tolerant cultivars. Tolerant-related morpho-physiological traits and simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers were employed to survey genetic diversity in greenhouse and growth chamber trials. 100 tall fescue accessions, including 8 commercial cultivars and 92 natural genotypes, showed a high variation in phenotypic performance under heat stress. Based on standardized heat tolerant-related morpho-physiological data, all tall fescue accessions were clustered into five groups. The accessions with similar heat tolerance were likely to be clustered in the same group. The highest genetic diversity was obtained for accessions from Africa judged by Nei's gene diversity (0.2640) and PIC (0.2112). All grass accessions could be divided into three major groups based on SSR markers, which was partially congruous to the geographical regions and history of introduction. A low correlation was found between morpho-physiological traits and SSR markers by Mantel test. The patterns in morpho-physiological trait variations and genetic diversity associated with heat tolerance were useful to design breeding programs for developing heat stress resistance in tall fescue.
Project description:Heat stress transcription factors (HSFs) compose a large gene family, and different members play differential roles in regulating plant responses to abiotic stress. The objectives of this study were to identify and characterize an A2-type HSF, FaHsfA2c, in a cool-season perennial grass tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) for its association with heat tolerance and to determine the underlying physiological functions and regulatory mechanisms of FaHsfA2c imparting plant tolerance to heat stress. FaHsfA2c was localized in nucleus and exhibited a rapid transcriptional increase in leaves and roots during early phase of heat stress. Ectopic expression of FaHsfA2c improved basal and acquired thermotolerance in wild-type Arabidopsis and also restored heat-sensitive deficiency of hsfa2 mutant. Overexpression of FaHsfA2c in tall fescue enhanced plant tolerance to heat by triggering transcriptional regulation of heat-protective gene expression, improving photosynthetic capacity and maintaining plant growth under heat stress. Our results indicated that FaHsfA2c acted as a positive regulator conferring thermotolerance improvement in Arabidopsis and tall fescue, and it could be potentially used as a candidate gene for genetic modification and molecular breeding to develop heat-tolerant cool-season grass species.
Project description:Many cool-season grasses (subfamily Pooideae) possess maternally transmitted fungal symbionts which cause no known pathology and often enhance the ecological fitness and biochemical capabilities of the grass hosts. The most commonly described endophytes are the Acremonium section Albo-lanosa spp. (Acremonium endophytes), which are conidial anamorphs (strictly asexual forms) of Epichloë typhina. Other endophytes which have been noted are a Gliocladium-like fungus in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) and a Phialophora-like fungus in tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.). Here, we report the identification of additional non-Acremonium sp. endophytes (herein designated p-endophytes) in three more grass species: Festuca gigantea, Festuca arizonica, and Festuca pratensis. In each grass species, the p-endophyte was cosymbiotic with an Acremonium endophyte. Serological analysis and sequence determinations of variable portions of their rRNA genes indicated that the two previously identified non-Acremonium endophytes are closely related to each other and to the newly identified p-endophytes. Therefore, the p-endophytes represent a second group of widely distributed grass symbionts.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) is major cool-season forage and turf grass species worldwide, but high-temperature is a major environmental stress that dramatically threaten forage production and turf management of tall fescue. However, very little is known about the whole-genome molecular mechanisms contributing to thermotolerance. The objectives of this study were to analyzed genome-wide gene expression profiles in the leaves of two tall fescue genotypes, heat tolerant 'PI578718' and heat sensitive 'PI234881' using high-throughput RNA sequencing. RESULTS: A total of 262 million high-quality paired-end reads were generated and assembled into 31,803 unigenes with an average length of 1,840 bp. Of these, 12,974 unigenes showed different expression patterns in response to heat stress and were categorized into 49 Gene Ontology functional subcategories. In addition, the variance of enrichment degree in each functional subcategory between PI578718 and PI234881 increased with increasing treatment time. Cell division and cell cycle genes showed a massive increase in transcript abundance in heat-stressed plants and more activated genes were detected in PI 578718 by Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathways analysis. Low molecular weight heat shock protein (LMW-HSP, HSP20) showed activated in two stressed genotypes and high molecular weight HSP (HMW-HSP, HSP90) just in PI578718. Assimilation such as photosynthesis, carbon fixation, CH4, N, S metabolism decreased along with increased dissimilation such as oxidative phosphorylation. CONCLUSIONS: The assembled transcriptome of tall fescue could serve as a global description of expressed genes and provide more molecular resources for future functional characterization analysis of genomics in cool-season turfgrass in response to high-temperature. Increased cell division, LMW/HMW-HSP, dissimilation and antioxidant transcript amounts in tall fescue were correlated with successful resistance to high temperature stress.