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Effects Of Drought Stress And Water Recovery On Physiological Responses And Gene Expression In Maize Seedlings

Xiangbo Zhang, Lei Lei, Jinsheng Lai, H. Zhao, W. Song
Published 2018 · Biology, Medicine

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BackgroundDrought is one of the major factors limiting global maize production. Exposure to long-term drought conditions inhibits growth and leads to yield losses. Although several drought-responsive genes have been identified and functionally analyzed, the mechanisms underlying responses to drought and water recovery treatments have not been fully elucidated. To characterize how maize seedling respond to drought stress at the transcriptional level, we analyzed physiological responses and differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in the inbred line B73 under water deficit and recovery conditions.ResultsThe data for relative leaf water content, leaf size, and photosynthesis-related parameters indicated that drought stress significantly repressed maize seedling growth. Further RNA sequencing analysis revealed that 6107 DEGs were responsive to drought stress and water recovery, with more down-regulated than up-regulated genes. Among the DEGs, the photosynthesis- and hormone-related genes were enriched in responses to drought stress and re-watering. Additionally, transcription factor genes from 37 families were differentially expressed among the three analyzed time-points. Gene ontology enrichment analyses of the DEGs indicated that 50 GO terms, including those related to photosynthesis, carbohydrate metabolism, oxidoreductase activities, nutrient metabolism and other drought-responsive pathways, were over-represented in the drought-treated seedlings. The content of gibberellin in drought treatment seedlings was decreased compared to that of control seedlings, while abscisic acid showed accumulated in the drought treated plants. The deep analysis of DEGs related to cell wall development indicated that these genes were prone to be down-regulated at drought treatment stage.ConclusionsMany genes that are differentially expressed in responses to drought stress and water recovery conditions affect photosynthetic systems and hormone biosynthesis. The identified DEGs, especially those encoding transcription factors, represent potential targets for developing drought-tolerant maize lines.
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