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Article|05 Jan 2022|OPEN
Transcriptomic and physiological analysis identifies a gene network module highly associated with brassinosteroid regulation in hybrid sweetgum tissues differing in the capability of somatic embryogenesis 
Ruirui Zhao1 ,† , Shuaizheng Qi1 ,† , Ying Cui1 , Ying Gao1 , Shuaifei Jiang1 , Jian Zhao1 , Jinfeng Zhang1 , and Lisheng Kong,1,2 ,
1National Engineering Laboratory for Tree Breeding, Key Laboratory of Genetics and Breeding in Forest Trees and Ornamental Plants, Ministry of Education, The Tree and Ornamental Plant Breeding and Biotechnology Laboratory of National Forestry and Grassland Administration, College of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China
2Centre for Forest Biology, Department of Biology, University of Victoria, 3800 Finnerty Rd, Victoria, BC V8W 3N5, Canada
*Corresponding author. E-mail:,
Both authors contributed equally to the study.

Horticulture Research 9,
Article number: uhab047 (2022)
Views: 22

Received: 22 Mar 2021
Revised: 09 Aug 2021
Accepted: 20 Aug 2021
Published online: 05 Jan 2022


Somatic embryogenesis is a preferred method for large-scale production of forest trees due to its high propagation efficiency. In this study, hybrid sweetgum leaves with phase changes from mature to embryogenic state were selected as experimental material to study somatic embryo initiation. Embryogenicity ranged from high to low, i.e. from 45%, 25%, and 12.5% to 0, with the samples of embryogenic callus (EC), whiten leaf edge (WLI), whiten leaf (WLII), and green leaf (GL) respectively. High correlations existed between embryogenicity and endogenous brassinosteroids (BRs) (r = 0.95, p < 0.05). Similarly, concentrations of endogenous BRs of the sample set correlated positively (r = 0.93, 0.99, 0.87, 0.99, 0.96 respectively, P < 0.05) to expression of somatic embryo (SE)-related genes, i.e. BBMLEC2, ABI3, PLT2, and WOX2. Hierarchical cluster and weighted gene coexpression network analysis identified modules of coexpressed genes and network in 4820 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) from All-BR-Regulated Genes (ABRG). Moreover, exogenously-supplemented epiBR, together with 2,4-D and 6-BA, increased embryogenicity of GL-sourced callus, and expression of SE- and auxin-related genes, while brassinazole (BRZ), a BR biosynthesis inhibitor, reduced embryogenicity. Evidences obtained in this study revealed that BRs involved in phase change of leaf explants and may function in regulating gene expression and enhancing auxin effects. This study successfully established protocols for inducing somatic embryogenesis from leaf explants in hybrid sweetgum, which could facilitate the propagation process greatly, and provide theoretical basis for manipulating SE competence of explants in ornamental woody plants.