New Phytol 180(2) , 408-20 ( 2008)
Sequencing of the Populus trichocarpa genome creates an opportunity to describe the transcriptome of a woody perennial species and establish an atlas of gene expression. A comparison with the transcriptomes of other species can also define genes that are conserved or diverging in plant species. Here, the transcriptome in vegetative organs of the P. trichocarpa reference genotype Nisqually-1 was characterized. A comparison with Arabidopsis thaliana orthologs was used to distinguish gene functional categories that may be evolving differently in a woody perennial and an annual herbaceous species. A core set of genes expressed in common among vegetative organs was detected, as well as organ-specific genes. Statistical tests identified chromatin domains, where adjacent genes were expressed more frequently than expected by chance. Extensive divergence was detected in the expression patterns of A. thaliana and P. trichocarpa orthologs, but transcription of a small number of genes appeared to have remained conserved in the two species. Despite separation of lineages for over 100 million yr, these results suggest that selection has limited transcriptional divergence of genes associated with some essential functions in A. thaliana and P. trichocarpa. However, extensive remodeling of transcriptional networks indicates that expression regulation may be a key determinant of plant diversity.