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BACKGROUND: Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) as an important legume plant can quickly produce adventitious roots (ARs) to form new plants by cutting. But the regulatory mechanism of AR formation in alfalfa remains unclear.
RESULTS: To better understand the rooting process of alfalfa cuttings, plant materials from four stages, including initial separation stage (C stage), induction stage (Y stage), AR primordium formation stage (P stage) and AR maturation stage (S stage) were collected and used for RNA-Seq. Meanwhile, three candidate genes (SAUR, VAN3 and EGLC) were selected to explore their roles in AR formation. The numbers of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) of Y-vs-C (9,724) and P-vs-Y groups (6,836) were larger than that of S-vs-P group (150), indicating highly active in the early AR formation during the complicated development process. Pathways related to cell wall and sugar metabolism, root development, cell cycle, stem cell, and protease were identified, indicating that these genes were involved in AR production. A large number of hormone-related genes associated with the formation of alfalfa ARs have also been identified, in which auxin, ABA and brassinosteroids are thought to play key regulatory roles. Comparing with TF database, it was found that AP2/ERF-ERF, bHLH, WRKY, NAC, MYB, C2H2, bZIP, GRAS played a major regulatory role in the production of ARs of alfalfa. Furthermore, three identified genes showed significant promotion effect on AR formation.
CONCLUSIONS: Stimulation of stem basal cells in alfalfa by cutting induced AR production through the regulation of various hormones, transcription factors and kinases. This study provides new insights of AR formation in alfalfa and enriches gene resources in crop planting and cultivation.