The tripartite mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling cascades have been implicated in plant growth, development, and environment adaptation, but a comprehensive understanding of MAPK signaling at genome-wide level is limited in Capsicum annuum. Herein, genome-wide identification and transcriptional expression analysis of MAPK and MAPK kinase (MAPKK) were performed in pepper. A total of 19 pepper MAPK (CaMAPKs) genes and five MAPKK (CaMAPKKs) genes were identified. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that CaMAPKs and CaMAPKKs could be classified into four groups and each group contains similar exon-intron structures. However, significant divergences were also found. Notably, five members of the pepper MAPKK family were much less conserved than those found in Arabidopsis, and 9 Arabidopsis MAPKs did not have orthologs in pepper. Additionally, 7 MAPKs in Arabidopsis had either two or three orthologs in the pepper genome, and six pepper MAPKs and one MAPKK differing in sequence were found in three pepper varieties. Quantitative real-time RT-PCR analysis showed that the majority of MAPK and MAPKK genes were ubiquitously expressed and transcriptionally modified in pepper leaves after treatments with heat, salt, and Ralstonia solanacearum inoculation as well as exogenously applied salicylic acid, methyl jasmonate, ethephon, and abscisic acid. The MAPKK-MAPK interactome was tested by yeast two-hybrid assay, the results showed that one MAPKK might interact with multiple MAPKs, one MAPK might also interact with more than one MAPKKs, constituting MAPK signaling networks which may collaborate in transmitting upstream signals into appropriate downstream cellular responses and processes. These results will facilitate future functional characterization of MAPK cascades in pepper
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