Plants are continuously exposed to diurnal fluctuations in light and temperature, and spontaneous changes in their physical or biotic environment. The circadian clock coordinates regulation of gene expression with a 24 h period, enabling the anticipation of these events.
We used RNA sequencing to characterize the Brachypodium distachyon transcriptome under light and temperature cycles, as well as under constant conditions.
Approximately 3% of the transcriptome was regulated by the circadian clock, a smaller proportion than reported in most other species. For most transcripts that were rhythmic under all conditions, including many known clock genes, the period of gene expression lengthened from 24 to 27 h in the absence of external cues. To functionally characterize the cyclic transcriptome in B. distachyon, we used Gene Ontology enrichment analysis, and found several terms significantly associated with peak expression at particular times of the day. Furthermore, we identified sequence motifs enriched in the promoters of similarly phased genes, some potentially associated with transcription factors.
When considering the overlap in rhythmic gene expression and specific pathway behavior, thermocycles was the prevailing cue that controlled diurnal gene regulation. Taken together, our characterization of the rhythmic B. distachyon transcriptome represents a foundational resource with implications in other grass species.