BACKGROUND: Starch in the lotus seed contains a high proportion of amylose, which endows lotus seed a promising property in the development of hypoglycemic and low-glycemic index functional food. Currently, improving starch content is one of the major goals for seed-lotus breeding. ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase (AGPase) plays an essential role in regulating starch biosynthesis in plants, but little is known about its characterization in lotus.
RESULTS: We describe the nutritional compositions of lotus seed among 30 varieties with starch as a major component. Comparative transcriptome analysis showed that AGPase genes were differentially expressed in two varieties (CA and JX) with significant different starch content. Seven putative AGPase genes were identified in the lotus genome (Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn.), which could be grouped into two subfamilies. Selective pressure analysis indicated that purifying selection acted as a vital force in the evolution of AGPase genes. Expression analysis revealed that lotus AGPase genes have varying expression patterns, with NnAGPL2a and NnAGPS1a as the most predominantly expressed, especially in seed and rhizome. NnAGPL2a and NnAGPS1a were co-expressed with a number of starch and sucrose metabolism pathway related genes, and their expressions were accompanied by increased AGPase activity and starch content in lotus seed.
CONCLUSIONS: Seven AGPase genes were characterized in lotus, with NnAGPL2a and NnAGPS1a, as the key genes involved in starch biosynthesis in lotus seed. These results considerably extend our understanding on lotus AGPase genes and provide theoretical basis for breeding new lotus varieties with high-starch content.