Transcriptome divergence between the hexaploid salt-marsh sister species Spartina maritima and Spartina alterniflora (Poaceae)


Malika Ainouche, Fax: +33(0)22 323 5047; E-mail:


Invasive species are ideal model systems to investigate the evolutionary processes associated with their ecological success by comparison with closely related species. In this article, we explore transcriptome evolution following divergence between two closely related salt-marsh species, the invasive Spartina alterniflora (native to the East-American Atlantic coast, introduced in several continents) and the declining Spartina maritima (native to the Euro-African Atlantic coast). We have explored the utility of cross-species hybridization microarrays using rice (Oryza sativa) oligo-microarrays to compare leaf expression patterns between these species. Coding sequence comparisons from 10 nuclear genes (2256 bp) revealed that nucleotide divergence between Spartina and Oryza range from 8% to 14%. More than 70% of the 60-mer oligonucleotide sequences spotted on the rice microarray exhibited stable and repeatable patterns when hybridized against Spartina RNA. In total, 9353 (44.5%) genes on the array hybridized with both species S. maritima and S. alterniflora. Among these genes, 1247 genes were found to be differentially expressed between the two Spartina species, most of them (957) being up-regulated in S. alterniflora. In particular, developmental and cellular growth genes (gene ontology, biological process) were highly up-regulated in S. alterniflora and down-regulated in S. maritima, whereas genes involved in stress response were up-regulated in S. maritima. Our findings indicate the suitability of cross-species microarray hybridization between Spartina and O. sativa and reveal the extent of leaf transcriptome evolution that took place during the divergence between S. alterniflora and S. maritima. Expression patterns are consistent with the morphological differentiation and differential expansion of the two species.