Integrated Transcriptomic and Metabolomic Analyses of Cold-Tolerant and Cold-Sensitive Pepper Species Reveal Key Genes and Essential Metabolic Pathways Involved in Response to Cold Stress

Gao, C.; Mumtaz, M.A.; Zhou, Y.; Yang, Z.; Shu, H.; Zhu, J.; Bao, W.; Cheng, S.; Yin, L.; Huang, J.; Wang, Z.

International Journal of Molecular Sciences 23(12)


ISSN/ISBN: 1422-0067
PMID: 35743127
Accession: 080052720

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Cold stress, triggered by particularly low temperatures, is one of the most severe forms of abiotic stress in pepper plants and a major constraint to the global pepper industry, threatening crop production and food security. To acclimatize to extreme conditions, the plant undergoes numerous modifications, including genetic and metabolic modulations. A thorough study of both the genetic and metabolic alterations of plants in response to cold stress is vital to understanding and developing the cold stress resistance mechanism. This study implemented transcriptome and metabolome analyses to evaluate the cold stress response in cold-tolerant and cold-sensitive pepper species. The weighted gene co-expression network revealed three significant modules related to cold stress tolerance in Capsicum pubescens. We identified 17 commonly enriched genes among both species at different time points in 10 different comparisons, including the AP2 transcription factor, LRR receptor-like serine, hypersensitivity-related 4-like protein, and uncharacterized novel.295 and novel.6172 genes. A pathway enrichment analysis indicated that these DEGs were mainly associated with the MAPK signaling pathway, hormone signaling pathway, and primary and secondary metabolism. Additionally, 21 significantly differentially accumulated metabolites (DAMs) were identified in both species after 6 h of cold stress. A transcriptome and metabolome integrated analysis revealed that 54 genes correlated with metabolites enriched in five different pathways. Most genes and metabolites involved in carbohydrate metabolism, the TCA cycle, and flavonoid biosynthesis pathways were upregulated in cold-tolerant plants under cold stress. Together, the results of this study provide a comprehensive gene regulatory and metabolic network in response to cold stress and identified some key genes and metabolic pathways involved in pepper cold tolerance. This study lays a foundation for the functional characterization and development of pepper cultivars with improved cold tolerance.