Diverse Roles Of Strigolactone Signaling In Maize Architecture And The Uncoupling Of A Branching-Specific Subnetwork
Strigolactones (SLs) control lateral branching in diverse species by regulating transcription factors orthologous to Teosinte branched1 (Tb1). In maize (Zea mays), however, selection for a strong central stalk during domestication is attributed primarily to the Tb1 locus, leaving the architectural roles of SLs unclear. To determine how this signaling network is altered in maize, we first examined effects of a knockout mutation in an essential SL biosynthetic gene that encodes CAROTENOID CLEAVAGE DIOXYGENASE8 (CCD8), then tested interactions between SL signaling and Tb1. Comparative genome analysis revealed that maize depends on a single CCD8 gene (ZmCCD8), unlike other panicoid grasses that have multiple CCD8 paralogs. Function of ZmCCD8 was confirmed by transgenic complementation of Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) max4 (ccd8) and by phenotypic rescue of the maize mutant (zmccd8::Ds) using a synthetic SL (GR24). Analysis of the zmccd8 mutant revealed a modest increase in branching that contrasted with prominent pleiotropic changes that include (1) marked reduction in stem diameter, (2) reduced elongation of internodes (independent of carbon supply), and (3) a pronounced delay in development of the centrally important, nodal system of adventitious roots. Analysis of the tb1 zmccd8 double mutant revealed that Tb1 functions in an SL-independent subnetwork that is not required for the other diverse roles of SL in development. Our findings indicate that in maize, uncoupling of the Tb1 subnetwork from SL signaling has profoundly altered the balance between conserved roles of SLs in branching and diverse aspects of plant architecture.