In-Depth Temporal Transcriptome Profiling Reveals a Crucial Developmental Switch with Roles for RNA Processing and Organelle Metabolism That Are Essential for Germination in Arabidopsis
Germination represents a rapid transition from dormancy to a high level of metabolic activity. In-depth transcriptomic profiling at 10 time points in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), including fresh seed, ripened seed, during stratification, germination, and postgermination per se, revealed specific temporal expression patterns that to our knowledge have not previously been identified. Over 10,000 transcripts were differentially expressed during cold stratification, with subequal numbers up-regulated as down-regulated, revealing an active period in preparing seeds for germination, where transcription and RNA degradation both play important roles in regulating the molecular sequence of events. A previously unidentified transient expression pattern was observed for a group of genes, whereby a significant rise in expression was observed at the end of stratification and significantly lower expression was observed 6 h later. These genes were further defined as germination specific, as they were most highly expressed at this time in germination, in comparison with all developmental tissues in the AtGenExpress data set. Functional analysis of these genes using genetic inactivation revealed that they displayed a significant enrichment for embryo-defective or -arrested phenotype. This group was enriched in genes encoding mitochondrial and nuclear RNA-processing proteins, including more than 45% of all pentatricopeptide domain-containing proteins expressed during germination. The presence of mitochondrial DNA replication factors and RNA-processing functions in this germination-specific subset represents the earliest events in organelle biogenesis, preceding any changes associated with energy metabolism. Green fluorescent protein analysis also confirmed organellar localization for 65 proteins, largely showing germination-specific expression. These results suggest that mitochondrial biogenesis involves a two-step process to produce energetically active organelles: an initial phase at the end of stratification involving mitochondrial DNA synthesis and RNA processing, and a later phase for building the better-known energetic functions. This also suggests that signals with a mitochondrial origin and retrograde signals may be crucial for successful germination.