Chinese fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata
(Lamb.) Hook.) is one of the most important coniferous evergreen tree species in South China due to its desirable attributes of fast growth and production of strong and hardy wood. However, the yield of Chinese fir is often inhibited by aluminum (Al) toxicity in acidic soils of South China. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of Chinese fir root responses to Al toxicity might help to further increase its productivity. Here we used the Illumina Hiseq4000 platform to carry out transcriptome analysis of Chinese fir roots subjected to Al toxicity conditions. A total of 88.88 Gb of clean data was generated from 12 samples and assembled into 105,732 distinct unigenes. The average length and N50 length of these unigenes were 839 bp and 1411 bp, respectively. Among them, 58362 unigenes were annotated through searches of five public databases (Nr: NCBI non-redundant protein sequences, Swiss-Prot: A manually annotated and reviewed protein sequence database, GO: Gene Ontology, KOG/COG: Clusters of Orthologous Groups of proteins, and KEGG: the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes database), which led to association of unigenes with 44 GO terms. Plus, 1615 transcription factors (TFs) were functionally classified. Then, differentially expressed genes (DEGs, |log2
(fold change)| ≥ 1 and FDR ≤ 0.05) were identified in comparisons labelled TC1 (CK-72 h/CK-1 h) and TC2 (Al-72 h/Al-1 h). A large number of TC2 DEGs group were identified, with most being down-regulated under Al stress, while TC1 DEGs were primarily up-regulated. Combining GO, KEGG, and MapMan pathway analysis indicated that many DEGs are involved in primary metabolism, including cell wall metabolism and lipid metabolism, while other DEGs are associated with signaling pathways and secondary metabolism, including flavonoids and phenylpropanoids metabolism. Furthermore, TFs identified in TC1 and TC2 DEGs represented 21 and 40 transcription factor families, respectively. Among them, expression of bHLH, C2H2, ERF, bZIP, GRAS, and MYB TFs changed considerably under Al stress, which suggests that these TFs might play crucial roles in Chinese fir root responses to Al toxicity. These differentially expressed TFs might act in concert with flavonoid and phenylpropanoid pathway genes in fulfilling of key roles in Chinese fir roots responding to Al toxicity.
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