Transcriptome landscape of perennial wild Cicer microphyllum uncovers functionally relevant molecular tags regulating agronomic traits in chickpea

Abstract

The RNA-sequencing followed by de-novo transcriptome assembly identified 11621 genes differentially xpressed in roots vs. shoots of a wild perennial Cicer microphyllum. Comparative analysis of transcriptomes between microphyllum and cultivated desi cv. ICC4958 detected 12772 including 3242 root- and 1639 shoot-specific microphyllum genes with 85% expression validation success rate. Transcriptional reprogramming of microphyllum root-specific genes implicates their possible role in regulating differential natural adaptive characteristics between wild and cultivated chickpea. The transcript-derived 5698 including 282 in-silico polymorphic SSR and 127038 SNP markers annotated at a genome-wide scale exhibited high amplification and polymorphic potential among cultivated (desi and kabuli) and wild accessions suggesting their utility in chickpea genomics-assisted breeding applications. The functional significance of markers was assessed based on their localization in non-synonymous coding and regulatory regions of microphyllum root-specific genes differentially expressed predominantly in ICC 4958 roots under drought stress. A high-density 490 genic SSR- and SNP markers-anchored genetic linkage map identified six major QTLs regulating drought tolerance-related traits, yield per plant and harvest-index in chickpea. The integration of high-resolution QTL mapping with comparative transcriptome profiling delineated five microphyllum root-specific genes with non-synonymous and regulatory SNPs governing drought-responsive yield traits. Multiple potential key regulators and functionally relevant molecular tags delineated can drive translational research and drought tolerance-mediated chickpea genetic enhancement.

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