Genome-wide identification and characterization of cacao WRKY transcription factors and analysis of their expression in response to witches' broom disease
Transcriptional regulation, led by transcription factors (TFs) such as those of the WRKY family, is a mechanism used by the organism to enhance or repress gene expression in response to stimuli. Here, we report on the genome-wide analysis of the Theobroma cacao WRKY TF family and also investigate the expression of WRKY genes in cacao infected by the fungus Moniliophthora perniciosa. In the cacao genome, 61 non-redundant WRKY sequences were found and classified in three groups (I to III) according to the WRKY and zinc-finger motif types. The 61 putative WRKY sequences were distributed on the 10 cacao chromosomes and 24 of them came from duplication events. The sequences were phylogenetically organized according to the general WRKY groups. The phylogenetic analysis revealed that subgroups IIa and IIb are sister groups and share a common ancestor, as well as subgroups IId and IIe. The most divergent groups according to the plant origin were IIc and III. According to the phylogenetic analysis, 7 TcWRKY genes were selected and analyzed by RT-qPCR in susceptible and resistant cacao plants infected (or not) with M. perniciosa. Some TcWRKY genes presented interesting responses to M. perniciosa such as Tc01_p014750/Tc06_p013130/AtWRKY28, Tc09_p001530/Tc06_p004420/AtWRKY40, Tc04_p016130/AtWRKY54 and Tc10_p016570/ AtWRKY70. Our results can help to select appropriate candidate genes for further characterization in cacao or in other Theobroma species.