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Regulatory networks of gene expression in maize (Zea mays) under drought stress and re-watering

By Liru Cao, Xiaomin Lu, Pengyu Zhang, Lixia Ku, Guorui Wang, Zhen Yuan, Xin Zhang, Jingyu Cui, Jingli Han, Ying Liu, Yangyong Cao, Li Wei, Tongchao Wang

Posted 04 Jul 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/361964

Drought can severely limit plant growth and production. However, few studies have investigated gene expression profiles in maize during drought/re-watering. We compared drought-treated and water-sufficient maize plants by measuring their leaf relative water content, superoxide dismutase and peroxidase activities, proline content, and leaf gas exchange parameters (photosynthetic rates, stomatal conductance, and transpiration rates). We conducted RNA sequencing analyses to elucidate gene expression profiles and identify miRNAs that might be related to drought resistance. A GO enrichment analysis showed that the common DEGs (differently expressed genes) between drought-treated and control plants were involved in response to stimulus, cellular process, metabolic process, cell part, and binding and catalytic activity. Analyses of gene expression profiles revealed that 26 of the DEGs under drought encoded 10 enzymes involved in proline synthesis, suggesting that increased proline synthesis was a key part of the drought response. We also investigated cell wall-related genes and transcription factors regulating abscisic acid-dependent and -independent pathways. The expression profiles of the miRNAs miR6214-3p, miR5072-3p, zma-miR529-5p, zma-miR167e-5p, zma-miR167f-5p, and zma-miR167j-5p and their relevant targets under drought conditions were analyzed. These results provide new insights into the molecular mechanisms of drought tolerance, and may identify new targets for breeding drought-tolerant maize lines.

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