Plant Science Innovation, Center for


Date of this Version



PNAS 2021 Vol. 118 No. 10 e2026330118


Although genome-sequence assemblies are available for a growing number of plant species, gene-expression responses to stimuli have been cataloged for only a subset of these species. Many genes show altered transcription patterns in response to abiotic stresses. However, orthologous genes in related species often exhibit different responses to a given stress. Accordingly, data on the regulation of gene expression in one species are not reliable predictors of orthologous gene responses in a related species. Here, we trained a supervised classification model to identify genes that transcriptionally respond to cold stress. A model trained with only features calculated directly from genome assemblies exhibited only modest decreases in performance relative to models trained by using genomic, chromatin, and evolution/ diversity features. Models trained with data from one species successfully predicted which genes would respond to cold stress in other related species. Cross-species predictions remained accurate when training was performed in cold-sensitive species and predictions were performed in cold-tolerant species and vice versa. Models trained with data on gene expression in multiple species provided at least equivalent performance to models trained and tested in a single species and outperformed single-species models in cross-species prediction. These results suggest that classifiers trained on stress data from well-studied species may suffice for predicting gene-expression patterns in related, less-studied species with sequenced genomes.