The interest in bioenergy crops, such as those belonging to the Saccharinae subtribe, has increased due to improvements in technologies related to the production of cellulosic bioethanol. In addition, the myriad of products that can derive from sugarcane biomass has been driving breeding programs towards varieties with a higher yield of fiber and a more vigorous and rustic performance: the energy cane.

Our group is currently exploring the transcriptome of sugarcane hybrids contrasting for biomass production. A total of 240 stranded libraries were prepared and sequenced on the Illumina platform to obtain 150 bp paired-end reads. Clean reads from all samples were aligned to the SP80-3280 and S. spontaneum transcriptomes.

It was possible to quantify the expression levels of over 200,000 transcripts and to identify tissue-specific expression patterns. Metabolic pathway enrichment analysis of differentially expressed genes points to changes in amino acid, lipid and carbohydrate metabolism among genotypes contrasting for biomass production. In addition, these changes are potentially regulated by phytohormones, such as ethylene, jasmonic acid, gibberellin and abscisic acid.

Finally, co-expression analysis revealed AP2/ERF, NAC, MYB, GRAS and ARF transcription factors family members as putative regulatory elements underlying plant growth and biomass production in sugar/energy canes.