Next-generation sequencing (NGS) transcriptomes reveal association of multiple genes and pathways contributing to secondary metabolites accumulation in tuberous roots of Aconitum heterophyllum Wall.

Tarun Pal, Nikhil Malhotra, Sree Krishna Chanumolu, Rajinder Singh Chauhan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Main conclusion: The transcriptomes ofAconitum heterophyllumwere assembled and characterized for the first time to decipher molecular components contributing to biosynthesis and accumulation of metabolites in tuberous roots. Aconitum heterophyllum Wall., popularly known as Atis, is a high-value medicinal herb of North-Western Himalayas. No information exists as of today on genetic factors contributing to the biosynthesis of secondary metabolites accumulating in tuberous roots, thereby, limiting genetic interventions towards genetic improvement of A. heterophyllum. Illumina paired-end sequencing followed by de novo assembly yielded 75,548 transcripts for root transcriptome and 39,100 transcripts for shoot transcriptome with minimum length of 200 bp. Biological role analysis of root versus shoot transcriptomes assigned 27,596 and 16,604 root transcripts; 12,340 and 9398 shoot transcripts into gene ontology and clusters of orthologous group, respectively. KEGG pathway mapping assigned 37 and 31 transcripts onto starch–sucrose metabolism while 329 and 341 KEGG orthologies associated with transcripts were found to be involved in biosynthesis of various secondary metabolites for root and shoot transcriptomes, respectively. In silico expression profiling of the mevalonate/2-C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate (non-mevalonate) pathway genes for aconites biosynthesis revealed 4 genes HMGR (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase), MVK (mevalonate kinase), MVDD (mevalonate diphosphate decarboxylase) and HDS (1-hydroxy-2-methyl-2-(E)-butenyl 4-diphosphate synthase) with higher expression in root transcriptome compared to shoot transcriptome suggesting their key role in biosynthesis of aconite alkaloids. Five genes, GMPase (geranyl diphosphate mannose pyrophosphorylase), SHAGGY, RBX1 (RING-box protein 1), SRFreceptor kinases and β-amylase, implicated in tuberous root formation in other plant species showed higher levels of expression in tuberous roots compared to shoots. A total of 15,487 transcription factors belonging to bHLH, MYB, bZIP families and 399 ABC transporters which regulate biosynthesis and accumulation of bioactive compounds were identified in root and shoot transcriptomes. The expression of 5 ABC transporters involved in tuberous root development was validated by quantitative PCR analysis. Network connectivity diagrams were drawn for starch–sucrose metabolism and isoquinoline alkaloid biosynthesis associated with tuberous root growth and secondary metabolism, respectively, in root transcriptome of A. heterophyllum. The current endeavor will be of practical importance in planning a suitable genetic intervention strategy for the improvement of A. heterophyllum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-258
Number of pages20
Issue number1
StatePublished - 28 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Aconitum
  • Network connectivity diagrams
  • Pathway mapping
  • RNA-seq
  • Transcript abundance
  • Transcriptome analysis
  • Tuberous roots

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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