Special Issue "Omics in Plant Genetics and Breeding"

A special issue of Cells (ISSN 2073-4409). This special issue belongs to the section "Plant, Algae and Fungi Cell Biology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 June 2022 | Viewed by 7898

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Francesco Mercati
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Institute of Biosciences and BioResources, Division of Palermo, National Research Council, Corso Calatafimi, 414, I-90129 Palermo, Italy
Interests: plant genetics; plant nutrition; breeding; molecular markers; NGS (next-generation sequencing)
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Francesco Carimi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute of Biosciences and BioResources, Division of Palermo, National Research Council - Corso Calatafimi, 414 - I-90129 Palermo, Italy
Interests: plant cell biology; plant biotechnology; somatic embryogenesis; genetic diversity
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In the past decades, conventional methods and molecular tools were successfully adopted in plant breeding to improve agronomic important traits in crop plants. However, climate changes and the growing human population have imposed rapid changes in the global food supply that the conventional breeding approaches are not guaranteed to accommodate.

At present, the development in omics technologies has made available high-throughput screening approaches, speeding up trait improvement in crops with a new evolution of plant breeding that is more able to clarify the relationship between genotype and phenotype. Genomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics, proteomics, and phenomics, supported by bioinformatics approaches, are helping to understand the molecular basis of complex traits and improving the knowledge about the key mechanisms behind crop features. The omics-assisted breeding has shown advantages and had a positive impact on genetic crop improvement, allowing plant geneticists to discover genes, regulatory sequences, and markers useful for the novel marker-assisted breeding (MAB). Omics technologies are giving plant breeders the possibility of “designing” new plant varieties with more resilience by improving tolerance/resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses and/or with increased yield of higher quality.

This Special Issue of Cells aims to publish original research articles, reviews, or shorter perspective articles on all aspects related to the omics approaches to advancing the knowledge and the genetic dissection of agronomic complex traits of interest. Especially, studies applying omics technologies and exploring their possible integration through bioinformatic approaches as tools to support future crop breeding programs are welcome.

Dr. Francesco Mercati
Dr. Francesco Carimi
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • next-generation sequencing (NGS)
  • genomics
  • transcriptomics
  • proteomics
  • metabolomics
  • phenomics
  • QTLs mapping
  • genome-wide assisted selection (GWAS)
  • crop breeding

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Article
Deciphering Haplotypic Variation and Gene Expression Dynamics Associated with Nutritional and Cooking Quality in Rice
Cells 2022, 11(7), 1144; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells11071144 - 28 Mar 2022
Viewed by 450
Abstract
Nutritional quality improvement of rice is the key to ensure global food security. Consequently, enormous efforts have been made to develop genomics and transcriptomics resources for rice. The available omics resources along with the molecular understanding of trait development can be utilized for [...] Read more.
Nutritional quality improvement of rice is the key to ensure global food security. Consequently, enormous efforts have been made to develop genomics and transcriptomics resources for rice. The available omics resources along with the molecular understanding of trait development can be utilized for efficient exploration of genetic resources for breeding programs. In the present study, 80 genes known to regulate the nutritional and cooking quality of rice were extensively studied to understand the haplotypic variability and gene expression dynamics. The haplotypic variability of selected genes were defined using whole-genome re-sequencing data of ~4700 diverse genotypes. The analytical workflow identified 133 deleterious single-nucleotide polymorphisms, which are predicted to affect the gene function. Furthermore, 788 haplotype groups were defined for 80 genes, and the distribution and evolution of these haplotype groups in rice were described. The nucleotide diversity for the selected genes was significantly reduced in cultivated rice as compared with that in wild rice. The utility of the approach was successfully demonstrated by revealing the haplotypic association of chalk5 gene with the varying degree of grain chalkiness. The gene expression atlas was developed for these genes by analyzing RNA-Seq transcriptome profiling data from 102 independent sequence libraries. Subsequently, weighted gene co-expression meta-analyses of 11,726 publicly available RNAseq libraries identified 19 genes as the hub of interactions. The comprehensive analyses of genetic polymorphisms, allelic distribution, and gene expression profiling of key quality traits will help in exploring the most desired haplotype for grain quality improvement. Similarly, the information provided here will be helpful to understand the molecular mechanism involved in the development of nutritional and cooking quality traits in rice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Omics in Plant Genetics and Breeding)
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Article
WRKY Gene Family Drives Dormancy Release in Onion Bulbs
Cells 2022, 11(7), 1100; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells11071100 - 24 Mar 2022
Viewed by 704
Abstract
Onion (Allium cepa L.) is an important bulb crop grown worldwide. Dormancy in bulbous plants is an important physiological state mainly regulated by a complex gene network that determines a stop of vegetative growth during unfavorable seasons. Limited knowledge on the molecular [...] Read more.
Onion (Allium cepa L.) is an important bulb crop grown worldwide. Dormancy in bulbous plants is an important physiological state mainly regulated by a complex gene network that determines a stop of vegetative growth during unfavorable seasons. Limited knowledge on the molecular mechanisms that regulate dormancy in onion were available until now. Here, a comparison between uninfected and onion yellow dwarf virus (OYDV)-infected onion bulbs highlighted an altered dormancy in the virus-infected plants, causing several symptoms, such as leaf striping, growth reduction, early bulb sprouting and rooting, as well as a lower abscisic acid (ABA) level at the start of dormancy. Furthermore, by comparing three dormancy stages, almost five thousand four hundred (5390) differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were found in uninfected bulbs, while the number of DEGs was significantly reduced (1322) in OYDV-infected bulbs. Genes involved in cell wall modification, proteolysis, and hormone signaling, such as ABA, gibberellins (GAs), indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), and brassinosteroids (BRs), that have already been reported as key dormancy-related pathways, were the most enriched ones in the healthy plants. Interestingly, several transcription factors (TFs) were up-regulated in the uninfected bulbs, among them three genes belonging to the WRKY family, for the first time characterized in onion, were identified during dormancy release. The involvement of specific WRKY genes in breaking dormancy in onion was confirmed by GO enrichment and network analysis, highlighting a correlation between AcWRKY32 and genes driving plant development, cell wall modification, and division via gibberellin and auxin homeostasis, two key processes in dormancy release. Overall, we present, for the first time, a detailed molecular analysis of the dormancy process, a description of the WRKY-TF family in onion, providing a better understanding of the role played by AcWRKY32 in the bulb dormancy release. The TF co-expressed genes may represent targets for controlling the early sprouting in onion, laying the foundations for novel breeding programs to improve shelf life and reduce postharvest. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Omics in Plant Genetics and Breeding)
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Article
Proteomic Studies of Roots in Hypoxia-Sensitive and -Tolerant Tomato Accessions Reveal Candidate Proteins Associated with Stress Priming
Cells 2022, 11(3), 500; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells11030500 - 31 Jan 2022
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Abstract
Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) is a vegetable frequently exposed to hypoxia stress induced either by being submerged, flooded or provided with limited oxygen in hydroponic cultivation systems. The purpose of the study was to establish the metabolic mechanisms responsible for overcoming hypoxia [...] Read more.
Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) is a vegetable frequently exposed to hypoxia stress induced either by being submerged, flooded or provided with limited oxygen in hydroponic cultivation systems. The purpose of the study was to establish the metabolic mechanisms responsible for overcoming hypoxia in two tomato accessions with different tolerance to this stress, selected based on morphological and physiological parameters. For this purpose, 3-week-old plants (plants at the juvenile stage) of waterlogging-tolerant (WL-T), i.e., POL 7/15, and waterlogging-sensitive (WL-S), i.e., PZ 215, accessions were exposed to hypoxia stress (waterlogging) for 7 days, then the plants were allowed to recover for 14 days, after which another 7 days of hypoxia treatment was applied. Root samples were collected at the end of each time-point and 2D-DIGE with MALDI TOF/TOF, and expression analyses of gene and protein-encoded alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH2) and immunolabelling of ADH were conducted. After collating the obtained results, the different responses to hypoxia stress in the selected tomato accessions were observed. Both the WL-S and WL-T tomato accessions revealed a high amount of ADH2, which indicates an intensive alcohol fermentation pathway during the first exposure to hypoxia. In comparison to the tolerant one, the expression of the adh2 gene was about two times higher for the sensitive tomato. Immunohistochemical analysis confirmed the presence of ADH in the parenchyma cells of the cortex and vascular tissue. During the second hypoxia stress, the sensitive accession showed a decreased accumulation of ADH protein and similar expression of the adh2 gene in comparison to the tolerant accession. Additionally, the proteome showed a greater protein abundance of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase in primed WL-S tomato. This could suggest that the sensitive tomato overcomes the oxygen limitation and adapts by reducing alcohol fermentation, which is toxic to plants because of the production of ethanol, and by enhancing glycolysis. Proteins detected in abundance in the sensitive accession are proposed as crucial factors for hypoxia stress priming and their function in hypoxia tolerance is discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Omics in Plant Genetics and Breeding)
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Article
Could Causal Discovery in Proteogenomics Assist in Understanding Gene–Protein Relations? A Perennial Fruit Tree Case Study Using Sweet Cherry as a Model
Cells 2022, 11(1), 92; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells11010092 - 29 Dec 2021
Viewed by 516
Abstract
Genome-wide transcriptome analysis is a method that produces important data on plant biology at a systemic level. The lack of understanding of the relationships between proteins and genes in plants necessitates a further thorough analysis at the proteogenomic level. Recently, our group generated [...] Read more.
Genome-wide transcriptome analysis is a method that produces important data on plant biology at a systemic level. The lack of understanding of the relationships between proteins and genes in plants necessitates a further thorough analysis at the proteogenomic level. Recently, our group generated a quantitative proteogenomic atlas of 15 sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) cv. ‘Tragana Edessis’ tissues represented by 29,247 genes and 7584 proteins. The aim of the current study was to perform a targeted analysis at the gene/protein level to assess the structure of their relation, and the biological implications. Weighted correlation network analysis and causal modeling were employed to, respectively, cluster the gene/protein pairs, and reveal their cause–effect relations, aiming to assess the associated biological functions. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that causal modeling has been employed within the proteogenomics concept in plants. The analysis revealed the complex nature of causal relations among genes/proteins that are important for traits of interest in perennial fruit trees, particularly regarding the fruit softening and ripening process in sweet cherry. Causal discovery could be used to highlight persistent relations at the gene/protein level, stimulating biological interpretation and facilitating further study of the proteogenomic atlas in plants. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Omics in Plant Genetics and Breeding)
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Article
Discovery of a Novel Leaf Rust (Puccinia recondita) Resistance Gene in Rye (Secale cereale L.) Using Association Genomics
Cells 2022, 11(1), 64; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells11010064 - 27 Dec 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 943
Abstract
Leaf rust constitutes one of the most important foliar diseases in rye (Secale cereale L.). To discover new sources of resistance, we phenotyped 180 lines belonging to a less well-characterized Gülzow germplasm at three field trial locations in Denmark and Northern Germany [...] Read more.
Leaf rust constitutes one of the most important foliar diseases in rye (Secale cereale L.). To discover new sources of resistance, we phenotyped 180 lines belonging to a less well-characterized Gülzow germplasm at three field trial locations in Denmark and Northern Germany in 2018 and 2019. We observed lines with high leaf rust resistance efficacy at all locations in both years. A genome-wide association study using 261,406 informative single-nucleotide polymorphisms revealed two genomic regions associated with resistance on chromosome arms 1RS and 7RS, respectively. The most resistance-associated marker on chromosome arm 1RS physically co-localized with molecular markers delimiting Pr3. In the reference genomes Lo7 and Weining, the genomic region associated with resistance on chromosome arm 7RS contained a large number of nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat (NLR) genes. Residing in close proximity to the most resistance-associated marker, we identified a cluster of NLRs exhibiting close protein sequence similarity with the wheat leaf rust Lr1 gene situated on chromosome arm 5DL in wheat, which is syntenic to chromosome arm 7RS in rye. Due to the close proximity to the most resistance-associated marker, our findings suggest that the considered leaf rust R gene, provisionally denoted Pr6, could be a Lr1 ortholog in rye. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Omics in Plant Genetics and Breeding)
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Article
Analyses of Lysin-motif Receptor-like Kinase (LysM-RLK) Gene Family in Allotetraploid Brassica napus L. and Its Progenitor Species: An In Silico Study
Cells 2022, 11(1), 37; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells11010037 - 23 Dec 2021
Viewed by 1105
Abstract
The LysM receptor-like kinases (LysM-RLKs) play a crucial role in plant symbiosis and response to environmental stresses. Brassica napus, B. rapa, and B. oleracea are utilized as valuable vegetables. Different biotic and abiotic stressors affect these crops, resulting in yield losses. [...] Read more.
The LysM receptor-like kinases (LysM-RLKs) play a crucial role in plant symbiosis and response to environmental stresses. Brassica napus, B. rapa, and B. oleracea are utilized as valuable vegetables. Different biotic and abiotic stressors affect these crops, resulting in yield losses. Therefore, genome-wide analysis of the LysM-RLK gene family was conducted. From the genome of the examined species, 33 LysM-RLK have been found. The conserved domains of Brassica LysM-RLKs were divided into three groups: LYK, LYP, and LysMn. In the BrassicaLysM-RLK gene family, only segmental duplication has occurred. The Ka/Ks ratio for the duplicated pair of genes was less than one indicating that the genes’ function had not changed over time. The BrassicaLysM-RLKs contain 70 cis-elements, indicating that they are involved in stress response. 39 miRNA molecules were responsible for the post-transcriptional regulation of 12 Brassica LysM-RLKs. A total of 22 SSR loci were discovered in 16 Brassica LysM-RLKs. According to RNA-seq data, the highest expression in response to biotic stresses was related to BnLYP6. According to the docking simulations, several residues in the active sites of BnLYP6 are in direct contact with the docked chitin and could be useful in future studies to develop pathogen-resistant B. napus. This research reveals comprehensive information that could lead to the identification of potential genes for Brassica species genetic manipulation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Omics in Plant Genetics and Breeding)
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Article
Metabolite Diversity and Metabolic Genome-Wide Marker Association Studies (Mgwas) for Health Benefiting Nutritional Traits in Pearl Millet Grains
Cells 2021, 10(11), 3076; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells10113076 - 08 Nov 2021
Viewed by 756
Abstract
As efforts are made to increase food security, millets are gaining increasing importance due to their excellent nutritional credentials. Among the millets, pearl millet is the predominant species possessing several health benefiting nutritional traits in its grain that are helpful in mitigating chronic [...] Read more.
As efforts are made to increase food security, millets are gaining increasing importance due to their excellent nutritional credentials. Among the millets, pearl millet is the predominant species possessing several health benefiting nutritional traits in its grain that are helpful in mitigating chronic illnesses such as type−2 diabetes and obesity. In this paper, we conducted metabolomic fingerprinting of 197 pearl millet inbred lines drawn randomly from within the world collection of pearl millet germplasm and report the extent of genetic variation for health benefitting metabolites in these genotypes. Metabolites were extracted from seeds and assessed using flow infusion high-resolution mass spectrometry (FIE-HRMS). Metabolite features (m/z), whose levels significantly differed among the germplasm inbred lines, were identified by ANOVA corrected for FDR and subjected to functional pathway analysis. A number of health-benefiting metabolites linked to dietary starch, antioxidants, vitamins, and lipid metabolism-related compounds were identified. Metabolic genome-wide association analysis (mGWAS) performed using the 396 m/z as phenotypic traits and the 76 K SNP as genotypic variants identified a total of 897 SNPs associated with health benefiting nutritional metabolite at the -log p-value ≤ 4.0. From these associations, 738 probable candidate genes were predicted to have an important role in starch, antioxidants, vitamins, and lipid metabolism. The mGWAS analysis focused on genes involved in starch branching (α-amylase, β-amylase), vitamin-K reductase, UDP-glucuronosyl, and UDP-glucosyl transferase (UGTs), L-ascorbate oxidase, and isoflavone 2′-monooxygenase genes, which are known to be linked to increases in human health benefiting metabolites. We demonstrate how metabolomic, genomic, and statistical approaches can be utilized to pinpoint genetic variations and their functions linked to key nutritional properties in pearl millet, which in turn can be bred into millets and other cereals crops using plant breeding methods. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Omics in Plant Genetics and Breeding)
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Review

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Review
Proteomic Analysis Dissects Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Plant Responses to Phosphorus Deficiency
Cells 2022, 11(4), 651; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells11040651 - 14 Feb 2022
Viewed by 620
Abstract
Phosphorus (P) is an essential nutrient for plant growth. In recent decades, the application of phosphate (Pi) fertilizers has contributed to significant increases in crop yields all over the world. However, low efficiency of P utilization in crops leads to intensive application of [...] Read more.
Phosphorus (P) is an essential nutrient for plant growth. In recent decades, the application of phosphate (Pi) fertilizers has contributed to significant increases in crop yields all over the world. However, low efficiency of P utilization in crops leads to intensive application of Pi fertilizers, which consequently stimulates environmental pollution and exhaustion of P mineral resources. Therefore, in order to strengthen the sustainable development of agriculture, understandings of molecular mechanisms underlying P efficiency in plants are required to develop cultivars with high P utilization efficiency. Recently, a plant Pi-signaling network was established through forward and reverse genetic analysis, with the aid of the application of genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and ionomics. Among these, proteomics provides a powerful tool to investigate mechanisms underlying plant responses to Pi availability at the protein level. In this review, we summarize the recent progress of proteomic analysis in the identification of differential proteins that play roles in Pi acquisition, translocation, assimilation, and reutilization in plants. These findings could provide insights into molecular mechanisms underlying Pi acquisition and utilization efficiency, and offer new strategies in genetically engineering cultivars with high P utilization efficiency. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Omics in Plant Genetics and Breeding)
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Review
Strategies to Increase Prediction Accuracy in Genomic Selection of Complex Traits in Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.)
Cells 2021, 10(12), 3372; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells10123372 - 30 Nov 2021
Viewed by 725
Abstract
Agronomic traits such as biomass yield and abiotic stress tolerance are genetically complex and challenging to improve through conventional breeding approaches. Genomic selection (GS) is an alternative approach in which genome-wide markers are used to determine the genomic estimated breeding value (GEBV) of [...] Read more.
Agronomic traits such as biomass yield and abiotic stress tolerance are genetically complex and challenging to improve through conventional breeding approaches. Genomic selection (GS) is an alternative approach in which genome-wide markers are used to determine the genomic estimated breeding value (GEBV) of individuals in a population. In alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), previous results indicated that low to moderate prediction accuracy values (<70%) were obtained in complex traits, such as yield and abiotic stress resistance. There is a need to increase the prediction value in order to employ GS in breeding programs. In this paper we reviewed different statistic models and their applications in polyploid crops, such as alfalfa and potato. Specifically, we used empirical data affiliated with alfalfa yield under salt stress to investigate approaches that use DNA marker importance values derived from machine learning models, and genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of marker-trait association scores based on different GWASpoly models, in weighted GBLUP analyses. This approach increased prediction accuracies from 50% to more than 80% for alfalfa yield under salt stress. Finally, we expended the weighted GBLUP approach to potato and analyzed 13 phenotypic traits and obtained similar results. This is the first report on alfalfa to use variable importance and GWAS-assisted approaches to increase the prediction accuracy of GS, thus helping to select superior alfalfa lines based on their GEBVs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Omics in Plant Genetics and Breeding)
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