Hevea brasiliensis is the most widely cultivated species for commercial production of natural rubber (cis-polyisoprene). In this study, 10,040 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) were generated from the latex of the rubber tree, which represents the cytoplasmic content of a single cell type, in order to analyse the latex transcription profile with emphasis on rubber biosynthesis-related genes. A total of 3,441 unique transcripts (UTs) were obtained after quality editing and assembly of EST sequences. Functional classification of UTs according to the Gene Ontology convention showed that 73.8% were related to genes of unknown function. Among highly expressed ESTs, a significant proportion encoded proteins related to rubber biosynthesis and stress or defence responses. Sequences encoding rubber particle membrane proteins (RPMPs) belonging to three protein families accounted for 12% of the ESTs. Characterization of these ESTs revealed nine RPMP variants (7.9-27 kDa) including the 14 kDa REF (rubber elongation factor) and 22 kDa SRPP (small rubber particle protein). The expression of multiple RPMP isoforms in latex was shown using antibodies against REF and SRPP. Both EST and quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (QRT-PCR) analyses demonstrated REF and SRPP to be the most abundant transcripts in latex. Besides rubber biosynthesis, comparative sequence analysis showed that the RPMPs are highly similar to sequences in the plant kingdom having stress-related functions. Implications of the RPMP function in cis-polyisoprene biosynthesis in the context of transcript abundance and differential gene expression are discussed.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.