Poplar defense against insects: genome analysis, full-length cDNA cloning, and transcriptome and protein analysis of the poplar Kunitz-type protease inhibitor family
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- •Kunitz protease inhibitors (KPIs) feature prominently in poplar defense responses against insects. The increasing availability of genomics resources enabled a comprehensive analysis of the poplar (p)KPI family.
- •Using genome analysis, expressed sequence tag (EST) mining and full-length (FL)cDNA cloning we established an inventory and phylogeny of pKPIs. Microarray and real-time PCR analyses were used to profile pKPI gene expression following real or simulated insect attack. Proteomics of insect midgut content was used to monitor stability of pKPI protein.
- •We identified 31 pKPIs in the genome and validated gene models by EST mining and cloning of 41 unique FLcDNAs. Genome organization of the pKPI family, with six poplar-specific subfamilies, suggests that tandem duplications have played a major role in its expansion. pKPIs are expressed throughout the plant and many are strongly induced by insect attack, although insect-specific signals seem initially to suppress the tree pKPI response. We found substantial peptide coverage for a potentially intact pKPI protein in insect midgut after eating poplar leaves.
- •These results highlight the complexity of an important defense gene family in poplar with regard to gene family size, differential constitutive and insect-induced gene expression, and resilience of at least one pKPI protein to digestion by herbivores.