, Volume 270, Issue 5, pp 432-441
Date: 28 Oct 2003

Isolation, genetic variation and expression of TIR-NBS-LRR resistance gene analogs from western white pine (Pinus monticola Dougl. ex. D. Don.)

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Abstract

Western white pine (Pinus monticola Dougl. ex. D. Don., WWP) shows genetic variation in disease resistance to white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola). Most plant disease resistance (R) genes encode proteins that belong to a superfamily with nucleotide-binding site domains (NBS) and C-terminal leucine-rich repeats (LRR). In this work a PCR strategy was used to clone R gene analogs (RGAs) from WWP using oligonucleotide primers based on the conserved sequence motifs in the NBS domain of angiosperm NBS-LRR genes. Sixty-seven NBS sequences were cloned from disease-resistant trees. BLAST searches in GenBank revealed that they shared significant identity to well-characterized R genes from angiosperms, including L and M genes from flax, the tobacco N gene and the soybean gene LM6. Sequence alignments revealed that the RGAs from WWP contained the conserved motifs identified in angiosperm NBS domains, especially those motifs specific for TIR-NBS-LRR proteins. Phylogenic analysis of plant R genes and RGAs indicated that all cloned WWP RGAs can be grouped into one major branch together with well-known R proteins carrying a TIR domain, suggesting they belong to the subfamily of TIR-NBS-LRR genes. In one phylogenic tree, WWP RGAs were further subdivided into fourteen clusters with an amino acid sequence identity threshold of 75%. cDNA cloning and RT-PCR analysis with gene-specific primers demonstrated that members of 10 of the 14 RGA classes were expressed in foliage tissues, suggesting that a large and diverse NBS-LRR gene family may be functional in conifers. These results provide evidence for the hypothesis that conifer RGAs share a common origin with R genes from angiosperms, and some of them may play important roles in defense mechanisms that confer disease resistance in western white pine. Ratios of non-synonymous to synonymous nucleotide substitutions (Ka/Ks) in the WWP NBS domains were greater than 1 or close to 1, indicating that diversifying selection and/or neutral selection operate on the NBS domains of the WWP RGA family.

Communicated by R. Hagemann