TIR-NBS-LRR genes are rare in monocots: evidence from diverse monocot orders
© Tarr et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2009
Received: 15 April 2009
Accepted: 28 September 2009
Published: 28 September 2009
Plant resistance (R) gene products recognize pathogen effector molecules. Many R genes code for proteins containing nucleotide binding site (NBS) and C-terminal leucine-rich repeat (LRR) domains. NBS-LRR proteins can be divided into two groups, TIR-NBS-LRR and non-TIR-NBS-LRR, based on the structure of the N-terminal domain. Although both classes are clearly present in gymnosperms and eudicots, only non-TIR sequences have been found consistently in monocots. Since most studies in monocots have been limited to agriculturally important grasses, it is difficult to draw conclusions. The purpose of our study was to look for evidence of these sequences in additional monocot orders.
Using degenerate PCR, we amplified NBS sequences from four monocot species (C. blanda, D. marginata, S. trifasciata, and Spathiphyllum sp.), a gymnosperm (C. revoluta) and a eudicot (C. canephora). We successfully amplified TIR-NBS-LRR sequences from dicot and gymnosperm DNA, but not from monocot DNA. Using databases, we obtained NBS sequences from additional monocots, magnoliids and basal angiosperms. TIR-type sequences were not present in monocot or magnoliid sequences, but were present in the basal angiosperms. Phylogenetic analysis supported a single TIR clade and multiple non-TIR clades.
We were unable to find monocot TIR-NBS-LRR sequences by PCR amplification or database searches. In contrast to previous studies, our results represent five monocot orders (Poales, Zingiberales, Arecales, Asparagales, and Alismatales). Our results establish the presence of TIR-NBS-LRR sequences in basal angiosperms and suggest that although these sequences were present in early land plants, they have been reduced significantly in monocots and magnoliids.
Plants recognize pathogens using both non-specific and specific mechanisms. Pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) mediate non-specific recognition by interacting with microbe- or pathogen-associated molecular patterns (MAMPs or PAMPs), while the products of plant resistance (R) genes recognize specific pathogen molecules [1, 2]. Disease resistance is the only known function for R genes, which appear to have a gene-for-gene relationship with pathogen avirulence (avr) genes .
Consensus motifs in TIR vs. non-TIR NBS sequences
The TIR class is found in bryophytes , and both TIR and non-TIR sequences are found in gymnosperms [11, 12]. While both classes are present in eudicots, studies in monocots have reported only non-TIR sequences [7–9, 13]. It is thought that TIR-NBS-LRRs either never developed in monocots  or have been lost [7–9, 13]. However, four resistance gene analogs (RGAs) from the Triticum-Thinopyrum alien addition line TAi-27 have a kinase-2 motif consistent with TIR-NBS-LRR sequences .
NBS sequences obtained by PCR
Number of fragments successfully cloned and sequenced by primer specificity
Number of fragments that resulted in TIR vs. non-TIR NBS sequences
Number of unique NBS sequences obtained
Total (excluding A. thaliana)
Using Pfam  and GenBank , we retrieved 17 monocot sequences (ten from Musa acuminata, four from Elaeis guineensis, and three from Zingiber species), all of which we classified as non-TIR-NBS-LRR sequences based on the kinase-2 motif. Although we did not find any new TIR-type sequences from monocots, the search confirmed the similarity of the Triticum-Thinopyrum sequences .
In addition to monocot sequences, we retrieved two sequences from Persea americana (magnoliid) and seven sequences from basal angiosperms (five from Nuphar advena and two from Amborella trichopoda). Based on the kinase-2 motif, both P. americana sequences were non-TIR and all five N. advena sequences were TIR-type sequences. The A. trichopoda sequences have a glutamic acid in the diagnostic position, but downstream motifs similar to TIR-type NBS sequences (data not shown). For comparison, we also retrieved 37 Pinus (gymnosperm) and six Physcomitrella patens (bryophyte) sequences.
Taxa included in phylogenetic analysis
Number used for tree
Pfam seed sequence
Previous studies of plant NBS-LRR sequences have suggested that only non-TIR-NBS-LRR sequences are present in monocots [7–9, 13], and the sequences from the Triticum-Thinopyrum addition line  have not been mentioned in later studies [17, 18, 22, 23]. A study in Agrostis species  reported two TIR-NBS-LRR sequences (Genbank: EE284250, EE284257). However, when these cDNA sequences are translated, they do not contain an open reading frame consistent with a NBS domain (data not shown), so it is unclear that these represent monocot TIR-NBS-LRR genes.
Our PCR strategy amplified TIR-NBS-LRR sequences from dicot and gymnosperm DNA, but not from monocot DNA
In spite of attempts to bias amplification and cloning toward TIR-type NBS sequences, we did not find TIR-NBS-LRR sequences in any of the monocots we tested, although we easily cloned and sequenced TIR-type sequences from a gymnosperm, eudicot, and Arabidopsis control reactions. Although we expected to find the TIR class in dicots, a previous study in coffee did not report any TIR-type sequences .
Our results support the hypothesis that TIR-type NBS sequences are rare in monocots. We used diverse monocot taxa, including a species closely related to grasses (C. blanda) and a species from a basal monocot order (Spathiphyllum sp.). As with any PCR study, we cannot eliminate the possibility that TIR-NBS-LRR sequences in monocots are too divergent for our primers to amplify. Species-specific amplification has been reported  and more comparative work is needed to confirm that there are definitive consensus sequences for these motifs that are well-conserved across diverse taxa.
Database searches and phylogenetic analysis show that TIR-type NBS sequences are present in basal angiosperms, but are rare in monocots and magnoliids
Using Pfam and GenBank, we obtained NBS sequences from monocots, a magnoliid, basal angiosperms, gymnosperms, and a bryophyte. The pine and moss sequences had been classified previously [10–12] and provided diverse lineages for comparison to the predominantly monocot and dicot sequences in our study. Based on the kinase-2 motif, TIR-type sequences were absent from monocots and magnoliids (with the exception of the reported Triticum-Thinopyrum sequences), but were present in basal angiosperms, gymnosperms, and bryophytes (Figure 2).
Our phylogenetic analysis (Figure 3) was consistent with previous analyses that showed a single TIR clade and multiple non-TIR clades [8, 9]. The full NBS domain was not available for some sequences used in the analysis. We expect that the phylogenetic relationships will be clarified as more sequence becomes available. Our clear non-TIR clades corresponded to N3 and N4 (Cannon), with N1 and N2 split into several poorly-supported clades. Cannon's N4 clade did not include monocots, while our analysis placed a Z. officinale sequence in this clade (Figure 3). Cannon reported that N1.2 might be monocot specific, but our corresponding clade was not well-supported. Based on the current analysis, N3.2 may be monocot specific.
We expected to find both dicots and gymnosperms represented across TIR and non-TIR clades, but gymnosperm sequences were only found in the TIR and N4 clades. Both magnoliid sequences were non-TIR type sequences, and all basal angiosperm sequences were in the TIR clade (Figure 3). As more basal angiosperm sequences become available, we expect to also find non-TIR-type NBS sequences. Our results suggest that TIR-type sequences are rare in both magnoliids and monocots.
TIR-NBS-LRR vs. the TIR domain
The rarity of TIR-NBS-LRR sequences in monocots does not necessarily reflect on the abundance of the TIR domain itself. Two similar protein families that may act as adapters (TIR-NBS and TIR-X) are found in monocots, but in low numbers compared to dicots and gymnosperms . Many sequences in the databases are fragments, and some predicted non-TIR-NBS-LRR proteins may be members of these new families .
Classification of NBS-LRR proteins into TIR and non-TIR (Figure 1) is based on consensus motifs within the NBS domain (Table 1). Although these are assumed to be diagnostic , the presence or absence of a TIR domain has not usually been confirmed. We cannot eliminate the possibility that these motifs are not diagnostic. Further sequencing of the N-terminal regions of these genes is needed to confirm that our categorization is correct.
We were unable to find monocot TIR-NBS-LRR sequences by PCR amplification or database searches. In contrast to previous studies, our results represent five monocot orders (Poales, Zingiberales, Arecales, Asparagales, and Alismatales) as well as basal angiosperms and magnoliids. Establishing the presence of TIR-type NBS sequences in basal angiosperms fills a gap in our knowledge of these important genes. Our results suggest that although TIR-type NBS-LRR sequences were present in early land plants, they have been reduced significantly in monocots. The sequences from the Triticum-Thinopyrum line  remain the only reported monocot TIR-NBS-LRR sequences. We do not know when these sequences were lost, but the P. americana sequences suggest that TIR-NBS-LRR sequences are rare in magnoliids as well. It is not clear whether these sequences were lost independently in both lineages or prior to their divergence. Further sequencing from additional taxa and confirmation that the motifs in the NBS region are diagnostic will be helpful in clarifying the evolutionary history of plant R genes.
We vegetatively propagated Carex blanda individuals collected from Kansas  and grew Arabidopsis thaliana from seeds (Ruth Shaw, University of Minnesota) in the greenhouse. Draceana marginata, Sansevieria trifasciata, Spathiphyllum sp., Cycas revoluta, and Coffea canephora came from the University of Kansas greenhouse.
Genomic DNA isolation
We isolated genomic DNA from frozen plant material by grinding with a mortar and pestle in extraction buffer (0.2 M Tris-HCl pH 7.5, 0.25 M NaCl, 25 mM EDTA pH 8.0, 0.5% SDS) and incubating at 65°C for 10 minutes. We performed three extractions with phenol:chloroform:isoamyl alcohol (25:24:1); the final extraction used a phase-lock tube (Eppendorf). We precipitated the DNA and resuspended it in 100 μL10 mM Tris pH 8.0 with 10 μg RNaseA.
Primers used for amplification of NBS sequences
Amino acid sequence
Degenerate primer (5'-3')
Conserved P-loop/Kinase-1a (V)
P-loop/Kinase-1a TIR (I)
RNBS-D TIR primer 1L (T1L)
RNBS-D TIR primer 1 (T1)
RNBS-D TIR primer 2 (T2)
RNBS-D TIR primer 3 (T3)
RNBS-D TIR primer 4 (T4)
RNBS-D TIR primer 5 (T5)
RNBS-D non-TIR primer 1 (nT1)
RNBS-D non-TIR primer 2 (nT2)
RNBS-D non-TIR primer 3 (nT3)
Conserved GLPL primer 1 (1)
Conserved GLPL primer 2 (2)
Conserved GLPL primer 3 (3)
Cloning and sequencing
We purified PCR products from agarose gels using the QIAquick gel extraction kit (QIAgen), ligated into the pCR4-TOPO vector (Invitrogen), and transformed into maximum efficiency DH5α competent cells. We isolated plasmid DNA from overnight cultures using a standard alkaline lysis protocol, digested with EcoRI, and sequenced representative clones with standard primers (T3/T7) at the University of Kansas sequencing facility or ACGT, Inc. We typically sequenced between one and three clones from each fragment. Sequences were submitted to GenBank with accession numbers EF687860-EF687864 and EF687876-EF687894.
We retrieved monocot (excluding Poales), gymnosperm, and bryophyte sequences from Pfam by viewing the NB-ARC domain (PF00931) species distribution. We retrieved sequences from GenBank by searching with known plant NBS sequences [see Additional File 2] and using the taxonomy reports to identify non-dicot, non-grass plant sequences with significant similarity (e < 0.05). We used EditSeq (Lasergene) for all sequence viewing and editing, and excluded sequences with internal stops or that lacked the diagnostic kinase-2 region.
We aligned sequences using the ClustalW algorithm in MegAlign (Lasergene) with manual adjustments as necessary. The alignment contained a core region of approximately 170 amino acids. We generated a scaffold tree based on the Pfam seed alignment and previous analyses [see Additional File 3] . Phylogenetic analysis with parsimony criteria was performed using PAUP* 4.0 beta10 .
We thank T. Hildebrand for encouraging the work in diverse monocot species, P. Cartwright and C. Haufler for use of lab equipment, K. Nus for greenhouse maintenance, and H. Yu at ACGT, Inc. for special pricing of sequencing services. We thank B. Williams for technical support. L. Hileman and M. Mort provided helpful comments on the manuscript.
DEKT was supported by the KU-Haskell IRACDA Project (NIH:5K12GM063651-02).
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