Taraxacum kok-saghyz R. (Tks) is a promising alternative species to Hevea brasiliensis for production of high quality natural rubber (NR). A comparative transcriptome analysis of plants with differential production of NR will contribute to elucidate which genes are involved in the synthesis, regulation and accumulation of this natural polymer and could help to develop Tks into a rubber crop.
We measured rubber content in the latex of 90 individual Tks plants from 9 accessions, observing a high degree of variability. We carried out de novo root transcriptome sequencing, assembly, annotation and comparison of gene expression of plants with the lower (LR plants) and the higher rubber content (HR plants). The transcriptome analysis also included one plant that did not expel latex, in principle depleted of latex transcripts. Moreover, the transcription of some genes well known to play a major role in rubber biosynthesis, was probed by qRT-PCR. Our analysis showed a high modulation of genes involved in the synthesis of NR between LR and HR plants, and evidenced that genes involved in sesquiterpenoids, monoterpenoids and phenylpropanoid biosynthesis are upregulated in LR plants.
Our results show that a higher amount of rubber in the latex in HR plants is positively correlated with high expression levels of a number of genes directly involved in rubber synthesis showing that NR production is highly controlled at transcriptional level. On the other hand, lower amounts of rubber in LR plants is related with higher expression of genes involved in the synthesis of other secondary metabolites that, we hypothesize, may compete towards NR biosynthesis. This dataset represents a fundamental genomic resource for the study of Tks and the comprehension of the synthesis of NR and other biochemically and pharmacologically relevant compounds in the Taraxacum genus.