BACKGROUND: White clover (Trifolium repens L.) is an allotetraploid species possessing two highly collinear ancestral sub-genomes. The apparent existence of highly similar homeolog copies for the majority of genes in white clover is problematic for the development of genome-based resources in the species. This is especially true for the development of genetic markers based on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), since it is difficult to distinguish between homeolog-specific and allelic variants. Robust methods for categorising single nucleotide variants as allelic or homeolog-specific in large transcript datasets are required. We illustrate one potential approach in this study. RESULTS: We used 454-pyrosequencing sequencing to generate ~760,000 transcript sequences from an 8th generation white clover inbred line. These were assembled and partially annotated to yield a reference transcript set comprising 71,545 sequences. We subsequently performed Illumina sequencing on three further white clover samples, generating 14 million transcript reads from a mixed sample comprising 24 divergent white clover genotypes, and 50 million reads on two further eighth generation white clover inbred lines. Mapping these reads to the reference transcript set allowed us to develop a significant SNP resource for white clover, and to partition the SNPs from the inbred lines into categories reflecting allelic or homeolog-specific variation. The potential for using haplotype reconstruction and progenitor genome comparison to assign haplotypes to specific ancestral sub-genomes of white clover is demonstrated for sequences corresponding to genes encoding dehydration responsive element binding protein and acyl-coA oxidase. CONCLUSIONS: In total, 208,854 independent SNPs in 31,715 reference sequences were discovered, approximately three quarters of which were categorised as representing allelic or homeolog-specific variation using two inbred lines. This represents a significant resource for white clover genomics and genetics studies. We discuss the potential to extend the analysis to identify a "core set" of ancestrally derived homeolog specific variants in white clover.
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