Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are small defense proteins present in various organisms. Major groups of AMPs include beta-barrelin, hevein, knottin, lipid transfer protein (LTP), thionin, defensin, snakin, and cyclotide. Most plant AMPs involve host plant resistance to pathogens such as fungi, viruses, and bacteria, whereas a few plant AMPs from the cyclotide family carry insecticidal functions. In this research, a genome-wide investigation on antimicrobial peptide genes in maize genome was conducted. AMPs previously identified from various plant species were used as query sequences for maize genome data mining. Thirty-nine new maize AMPs were identified in addition to seven known maize AMPs. Protein sequence analysis revealed 10 distinguishable maize AMP groups. Analysis of mRNA expression of maize AMP genes by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) revealed different expression patterns in a panel of 10 maize inbred lines. Five maize AMP genes were found significantly associated with insect or fungus resistance. Identification of maize antimicrobial peptide genes will facilitate the breeding of host plant resistance and improve maize production.
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