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Background Next-generation sequencing now allows for total RNA extracts to be sequenced in non-model organisms such as bamboos, an economically and ecologically important group of grasses. Bamboos are divided into three lineages, two of which are woody perennials with bisexual flowers, which undergo gregarious monocarpy. The third lineage, which are herbaceous perennials, possesses unisexual flowers that undergo annual flowering events. Results Transcriptomes were assembled using both reference-based and de novo methods. These two methods were tested by characterizing transcriptome content using sequence alignment to previously characterized reference proteomes and by identifying Pfam domains. Because of the striking differences in floral morphology and phenology between the herbaceous and woody bamboo lineages, MADS-box genes, transcription factors that control floral development and timing, were characterized and analyzed in this study. Transcripts were identified using phylogenetic methods and categorized as A, B, C, D or E-class genes, which control floral development, or SOC or SVP-like genes, which control the timing of flowering events. Putative nuclear orthologues were also identified in bamboos to use as phylogenetic markers. Conclusions Instances of gene copies exhibiting topological patterns that correspond to shared phenotypes were observed in several gene families including floral development and timing genes. Alignments and phylogenetic trees were generated for 3,878 genes and for all genes in a concatenated analysis. Both the concatenated analysis and those of 2,412 separate gene trees supported monophyly among the woody bamboos, which is incongruent with previous phylogenetic studies using plastid markers.



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Department of Biological Sciences

Legacy Department

Department of Biological Sciences


We thank R. Macias for access to his collection at the El Riscal bamboo plantation and A. Hernandez for aid in preparing samples for RNA sequencing. Sequencing and library preparation were supported by the Northern Illinois University Department of Biological Sciences and the Plant Molecular Biology Center. This project was also funded by NSF/NASA grant DEB1342782 to MRD. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This article is made openly accessible in part by an award from the Northern Illinois University Libraries' Open Access Publishing Fund.




BMC Genomics

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This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.



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