BACKGROUNDThe medicinal plant Artemisia annua is covered with filamentous trichomes and glandular, artemisinin producing trichomes. A high artemisinin supply is needed at a reduced cost for treating malaria. Artemisinin production in bioreactors can be facilitated if a better insight is obtained in the biosynthesis of artemisinin and other metabolites. Therefore, metabolic activities of glandular and filamentous trichomes were investigated at the transcriptome level.RESULTSBy laser pressure catapulting, glandular and filamentous trichomes as well as apical and sub-apical cells from glandular trichomes were collected and their transcriptome was sequenced using Illumina RNA-Seq. A de novo transcriptome was assembled (Trinity) and studied with a differential expression analysis (edgeR).A comparison of the transcriptome from glandular and filamentous trichomes shows that MEP, MVA, most terpene and lipid biosynthesis pathways are significantly upregulated in glandular trichomes. Conversely, some transcripts coding for specific sesquiterpenoid and triterpenoid enzymes such as 8-epi-cedrol synthase and an uncharacterized oxidosqualene cyclase were significantly upregulated in filamentous trichomes. All known artemisinin biosynthesis genes are upregulated in glandular trichomes and were detected in both the apical and sub-apical cells of the glandular trichomes. No significant differential expression could be observed between the apical and sub-apical cells.CONCLUSIONSOur results underscore the vast metabolic capacities of A. annua glandular trichomes but nonetheless point to the existence of specific terpene metabolic pathways in the filamentous trichomes. Candidate genes that might be involved in artemisinin biosynthesis are proposed based on their putative function and their differential expression level.