Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

The Gerbera cDNA Microarray: A Tool for Large-Scale Identification of Genes Involved in Flower Development

Roosa Laitinen

Doctoral dissertation, November 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biosciences, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and University of Helsinki,Department of Applied Biology.

During the past ten years, large-scale transcript analysis using microarrays has become a powerful tool to identify and predict functions for new genes. It allows simultaneous monitoring of the expression of thousands of genes and has become a routinely used tool in laboratories worldwide. Microarray analysis will, together with other functional genomics tools, take us closer to understanding the functions of all genes in genomes of living organisms.

Flower development is a genetically regulated process which has mostly been studied in the traditional model species Arabidopsis thaliana, Antirrhinum majus and Petunia hybrida. The molecular mechanisms behind flower development in them are partly applicable in other plant systems. However, not all biological phenomena can be approached with just a few model systems. In order to understand and apply the knowledge to ecologically and economically important plants, other species also need to be studied.

Sequencing of 17 000 ESTs from nine different cDNA libraries of the ornamental plant Gerbera hybrida made it possible to construct a cDNA microarray with 9000 probes. The probes of the microarray represent all different ESTs in the database. From the gerbera ESTs 20% were unique to gerbera while 373 were specific to the Asteraceae family of flowering plants.

Gerbera has composite inflorescences with three different types of flowers that vary from each other morphologically. The marginal ray flowers are large, often pigmented and female, while the central disc flowers are smaller and more radially symmetrical perfect flowers. Intermediate trans flowers are similar to ray flowers but smaller in size. This feature together with the molecular tools applied to gerbera, make gerbera a unique system in comparison to the common model plants with only a single kind of flowers in their inflorescence.

In the first part of this thesis, conditions for gerbera microarray analysis were optimised including experimental design, sample preparation and hybridization, as well as data analysis and verification. Moreover, in the first study, the flower and flower organ-specific genes were identified.

After the reliability and reproducibility of the method were confirmed, the microarrays were utilized to investigate transcriptional differences between ray and disc flowers. This study revealed novel information about the morphological development as well as the transcriptional regulation of early stages of development in various flower types of gerbera. The most interesting finding was differential expression of MADS-box genes, suggesting the existence of flower type-specific regulatory complexes in the specification of different types of flowers.

The gerbera microarray was further used to profile changes in expression during petal development. Gerbera ray flower petals are large, which makes them an ideal model to study organogenesis. Six different stages were compared and specifically analysed. Expression profiles of genes related to cell structure and growth implied that during stage two, cells divide, a process which is marked by expression of histones, cyclins and tubulins. Stage 4 was found to be a transition stage between cell division and expansion and by stage 6 cells had stopped division and instead underwent expansion. Interestingly, at the last analysed stage, stage 9, when cells did not grow any more, the highest number of upregulated genes was detected.

The gerbera microarray is a fully-functioning tool for large-scale studies of flower development and correlation with real-time RT-PCR results show that it is also highly sensitive and reliable. Gene expression data presented here will be a source for gene expression mining or marker gene discovery in the future studies that will be performed in the Gerbera Laboratory. The publicly available data will also serve the plant research community world-wide.

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Last updated 09.10.2006

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