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BMC Genomics




BioMed Central Ltd.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Background: Saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) is a valuable spice with medicinal uses in gynaecopathia and nervous system diseases. Identify flowering regulatory genes plays a vital role in increasing flower numbers, thereby resulting in high saffron yield.

Results: Two full length transcriptome gene sets of flowering and non-flowering saffron crocus were established separately using the single-molecule real-time (SMRT) sequencing method. A total of sixteen SMRT cells generated 22.85 GB data and 75,351 full-length saffron crocus unigenes on the PacBio RS II panel and further obtained 79,028 SSRs, 72,603 lncRNAs and 25,400 alternative splicing (AS) events. Using an Illumina RNA-seq platform, an additional fifteen corms with different flower numbers were sequenced. Many differential expression unigenes (DEGs) were screened separately between flowering and matched non-flowering top buds with cold treatment (1677), flowering top buds of 20 g corms and non-flowering top buds of 6 g corms (1086), and flowering and matched nonflowering lateral buds (267). A total of 62 putative flower-related genes that played important roles in vernalization (VRNs), gibberellins (G3OX, G2OX), photoperiod (PHYB, TEM1, PIF4), autonomous (FCA) and age (SPLs) pathways were identified and a schematic representation of the flowering gene regulatory network in saffron crocus was reported for the first time. After validation by real-time qPCR in 30 samples, two novel genes, PB.20221.2 (p = 0.004, r = 0.52) and PB.38952.1 (p = 0.023, r = 0.41), showed significantly higher expression levels in flowering plants. Tissue distribution showed specifically high expression in flower organs and time course expression analysis suggested that the transcripts increasingly accumulated during the flower development period.

Conclusions: Full-length transcriptomes of flowering and non-flowering saffron crocus were obtained using a combined NGS short-read and SMRT long-read sequencing approach. This report is the first to describe the flowering gene regulatory network of saffron crocus and establishes a reference full-length transcriptome for future studies on saffron crocus and other Iridaceae plants.