Front Plant Sci 8 , 184 (Feb 2017)
The pan-genome of a species is defined as the union of all the genes and non-coding sequences found in all its individuals. However, constructing a pan-genome for plants with large genomes is daunting both in sequencing cost and the scale of the required computational analysis. A more affordable alternative is to focus on the genic repertoire by using transcriptomic data. Here, the software GET_HOMOLOGUES-EST was benchmarked with genomic and RNA-seq data of 19 Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes and then applied to the analysis of transcripts from 16 Hordeum vulgare genotypes. The goal was to sample their pan-genomes and classify sequences as core, if detected in all accessions, or accessory, when absent in some of them. The resulting sequence clusters were used to simulate pan-genome growth, and to compile Average Nucleotide Identity matrices that summarize intra-species variation. Although transcripts were found to under-estimate pan-genome size by at least 10%, we concluded that clusters of expressed sequences can recapitulate phylogeny and reproduce two properties observed in A. thaliana gene models: accessory loci show lower expression and higher non-synonymous substitution rates than core genes. Finally, accessory sequences were observed to preferentially encode transposon components in both species, plus disease resistance genes in cultivated barleys, and a variety of protein domains from other families that appear frequently associated with presence/absence variation in the literature. These results demonstrate that pan-genome analyses are useful to explore germplasm diversity.