De novo transcriptome analysis of Medicago falcata reveals novel insights about the mechanisms underlying abiotic stress-responsive pathway

Zhenyan Miao, Wei Xu, Daofeng Li, Xiaona Hu, Jiaxing Liu, Rongxue Zhang, Zongyong Tong, Jiangli Dong, Zhen Su, Liwei Zhang, Min Sun, Wenjie Li, Zhenglin Du, Songnian Hu, Tao Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Background: The entire world is facing a deteriorating environment. Understanding the mechanisms underlying plant responses to external abiotic stresses is important for breeding stress-tolerant crops and herbages. Phytohormones play critical regulatory roles in plants in the response to external and internal cues to regulate growth and development. Medicago falcata is one of the stress-tolerant candidate leguminous species and is able to fix atmospheric nitrogen. This ability allows leguminous plants to grow in nitrogen deficient soils. Methods: We performed Illumina sequencing of cDNA prepared from abiotic stress treated M. falcata. Sequencedreads were assembled to provide a transcriptome resource. Transcripts were annotated using BLASTsearches against the NCBI non-redundant database and gene ontology definitions were assigned. Acomparison among the three abiotic stress treated samples was carried out. The expression of transcriptswas confirmed with qRT-PCR. Results: We present an abiotic stress-responsive M. falcata transcriptome using next-generation sequencing data from samples grown under standard, dehydration, high salinity, and cold conditions. We combined reads from all samples and de novo assembled 98,515 transcripts to build the M. falcata gene index. A comprehensive analysis of the transcriptome revealed abiotic stress-responsive mechanisms underlying the metabolism and core signalling components of major phytohormones. We identified nod factor signalling pathways during early symbiotic nodulation that are modified by abiotic stresses. Additionally, a global comparison of homology between the M. falcata and M. truncatula transcriptomes, along with five other leguminous species, revealed a high level of global sequence conservation within the family. Conclusions: M. falcata is shown to be a model candidate for studying abiotic stress-responsive mechanisms in legumes. This global gene expression analysis provides new insights into the biochemical and molecular mechanisms involved in the acclimation to abiotic stresses. Our data provides many gene candidates that might be used for herbage and crop breeding. Additionally, FalcataBase ( was built for storing these data.

Original languageEnglish
Article number818
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalBMC genomics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 19 2015


  • Legume
  • Medicago falcata
  • Nodule
  • Phytohormones
  • Transcriptome


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