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Use of a large-scale Triticeae expressed sequence tag resource to reveal gene expression profiles in hexaploid wheat (Triticum aestivum L.).

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The US Wheat Genome Project, funded by the National Science Foundation, developed the first large public Triticeae expressed sequence tag (EST) resource. Altogether, 116,272 ESTs were produced, comprising 100,674 5' ESTs and 15 598 3' ESTs. These ESTs were derived from 42 cDNA libraries, which were created from hexaploid bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and its close relatives, including diploid wheat (T. monococcum L. and Aegilops speltoides L.), tetraploid wheat (T. turgidum L.), and rye (Secale cereale L.), using tissues collected from various stages of plant growth and development and under diverse regimes of abiotic and biotic stress treatments. ESTs were assembled into 18,876 contigs and 23,034 singletons, or 41,910 wheat unigenes. Over 90% of the contigs contained fewer than 10 EST members, implying that the ESTs represented a diverse selection of genes and that genes expressed at low and moderate to high levels were well sampled. Statistical methods were used to study the correlation of gene expression patterns, based on the ESTs clustered in the 1536 contigs that contained at least 10 5' EST members and thus representing the most abundant genes expressed in wheat. Analysis further identified genes in wheat that were significantly upregulated (p < 0.05) in tissues under various abiotic stresses when compared with control tissues. Though the function annotation cannot be assigned for many of these genes, it is likely that they play a role associated with the stress response. This study predicted the possible functionality for 4% of total wheat unigenes, which leaves the remaining 96% with their functional roles and expression patterns largely unknown. Nonetheless, the EST data generated in this project provide a diverse and rich source for gene discovery in wheat.

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