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PLoS One. 2011 Feb 14;6(2):e17094. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017094.

Comparative functional genomics of salt stress in related model and cultivated plants identifies and overcomes limitations to translational genomics.

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Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology, Potsdam-Golm, Germany.


One of the objectives of plant translational genomics is to use knowledge and genes discovered in model species to improve crops. However, the value of translational genomics to plant breeding, especially for complex traits like abiotic stress tolerance, remains uncertain. Using comparative genomics (ionomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics) we analyzed the responses to salinity of three model and three cultivated species of the legume genus Lotus. At physiological and ionomic levels, models responded to salinity in a similar way to crop species, and changes in the concentration of shoot Cl(-) correlated well with tolerance. Metabolic changes were partially conserved, but divergence was observed amongst the genotypes. Transcriptome analysis showed that about 60% of expressed genes were responsive to salt treatment in one or more species, but less than 1% was responsive in all. Therefore, genotype-specific transcriptional and metabolic changes overshadowed conserved responses to salinity and represent an impediment to simple translational genomics. However, 'triangulation' from multiple genotypes enabled the identification of conserved and tolerant-specific responses that may provide durable tolerance across species.

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