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Special Issue "Molecular Mechanisms of Maize Response to Environmental Challenges"

A special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (ISSN 1422-0067). This special issue belongs to the section "Molecular Plant Sciences".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Serena Varotto
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Guest Editor
University of Padova Department of Agronomy Animal Food Natural Resources and Environment (DAFNAE), Viale dell’Università, 16, 35020 Legnaro (PD) Italy
Interests: Epigenetics of crop adaptation to environmental challenges
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In recent years, researchers working on maize response to environmental challenges have produced many molecular data on gene expression and regulation during plant growth and development.

All these data demonstrate that stress response and adaptation have important implications on maize productivity in the context of climate changes. Therefore, it is pivotal to collect and integrate all information to develop a suitable tool for breeding more resilient maize varieties.

Prof. Serena Varotto
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

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Article
Genome-Wide Characterization of Jasmonates Signaling Components Reveals the Essential Role of ZmCOI1a-ZmJAZ15 Action Module in Regulating Maize Immunity to Gibberella Stalk Rot
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2021, 22(2), 870; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms22020870 - 16 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 794
Abstract
Gibberella stalk rot (GSR) by Fusarium graminearum causes significant losses of maize production worldwide. Jasmonates (JAs) have been broadly known in regulating defense against pathogens through the homeostasis of active JAs and COI-JAZ-MYC function module. However, the functions of different molecular species of [...] Read more.
Gibberella stalk rot (GSR) by Fusarium graminearum causes significant losses of maize production worldwide. Jasmonates (JAs) have been broadly known in regulating defense against pathogens through the homeostasis of active JAs and COI-JAZ-MYC function module. However, the functions of different molecular species of JAs and COI-JAZ-MYC module in maize interactions with Fusarium graminearum and regulation of diverse metabolites remain unknown. In this study, we found that exogenous application of MeJA strongly enhanced resistance to GSR. RNA-seq analysis showed that MeJA activated multiple genes in JA pathways, which prompted us to perform a genome-wide screening of key JA signaling components in maize. Yeast Two-Hybrid, Split-Luciferase, and Pull-down assays revealed that the JA functional and structural mimic coronatine (COR) functions as an essential ligand to trigger the interaction between ZmCOIa and ZmJAZ15. By deploying CRISPR-cas9 knockout and Mutator insertional mutants, we demonstrated that coi1a mutant is more resistant, whereas jaz15 mutant is more susceptible to GSR. Moreover, JA-deficient opr7-5opr8-2 mutant displayed enhanced resistance to GSR compared to wild type. Together, these results provide strong evidence that ZmJAZ15 plays a pivotal role, whereas ZmCOIa and endogenous JA itself might function as susceptibility factors, in maize immunity to GSR. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular Mechanisms of Maize Response to Environmental Challenges)
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Article
The Maize Class-I SUMO Conjugating Enzyme ZmSCE1d Is Involved in Drought Stress Response
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21(1), 29; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21010029 - 19 Dec 2019
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 784
Abstract
Post-translational modification of cellular proteins by sumoylation plays a vital role in stress responses of plants. However, the mechanisms underlying the sumoylation’s involvement in stress responses in crop species remain largely unknown. Herein, a maize class-I SUMO conjugating enzyme gene (ZmSCE1d) [...] Read more.
Post-translational modification of cellular proteins by sumoylation plays a vital role in stress responses of plants. However, the mechanisms underlying the sumoylation’s involvement in stress responses in crop species remain largely unknown. Herein, a maize class-I SUMO conjugating enzyme gene (ZmSCE1d) was identified, whose expression was upregulated upon drought stress. Over-expression of ZmSCE1d in transgenic Arabidopsis plants increased SUMO conjugates and improved drought tolerance. The ZmSCE1d-transgenic plants showed higher antioxidant enzyme activities, but lower reactive oxygen species and lipid peroxidation upon drought stress. Furthermore, transcripts of several drought-responsive genes were significantly elevated, as revealed by qPCR in the transgenic lines. Taken together, these data have demonstrated that ZmSCE1d overexpression improved drought tolerance likely by regulating sumoylation levels, antioxidant capability, and drought-responsive gene expression in transgenic plants. This study may facilitate our understanding of the mechanisms underlying SCE-mediated sumoylation under drought stress and accelerate genetic improvement of crop plants tolerant to drought stress by manipulating the SUMO system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular Mechanisms of Maize Response to Environmental Challenges)
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Article
iTRAQ-Based Proteomic Analysis Reveals Several Strategies to Cope with Drought Stress in Maize Seedlings
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(23), 5956; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20235956 - 26 Nov 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1166
Abstract
Drought stress, especially during the seedling stage, seriously limits the growth of maize and reduces production in the northeast of China. To investigate the molecular mechanisms of drought response in maize seedlings, proteome changes were analyzed. Using an isotopic tagging relative quantitation (iTRAQ) [...] Read more.
Drought stress, especially during the seedling stage, seriously limits the growth of maize and reduces production in the northeast of China. To investigate the molecular mechanisms of drought response in maize seedlings, proteome changes were analyzed. Using an isotopic tagging relative quantitation (iTRAQ) based method, a total of 207 differentially accumulated protein species (DAPS) were identified under drought stress in maize seedlings. The DAPS were classified into ten essential groups and analyzed thoroughly, which involved in signaling, osmotic regulation, protein synthesis and turnover, reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenging, membrane trafficking, transcription related, cell structure and cell cycle, fatty acid metabolism, carbohydrate and energy metabolism, as well as photosynthesis and photorespiration. The enhancements of ROS scavenging, osmotic regulation, protein turnover, membrane trafficking, and photosynthesis may play important roles in improving drought tolerance of maize seedlings. Besides, the inhibitions of some protein synthesis and slowdown of cell division could reduce the growth rate and avoid excessive water loss, which is possible to be the main reasons for enhancing drought avoidance of maize seedlings. The incongruence between protein and transcript levels was expectedly observed in the process of confirming iTRAQ data by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) analysis, which further indicated that the multiplex post-transcriptional regulation and post-translational modification occurred in drought-stressed maize seedlings. Finally, a hypothetical strategy was proposed that maize seedlings coped with drought stress by improving drought tolerance (via. promoting osmotic adjustment and antioxidant capacity) and enhancing drought avoidance (via. reducing water loss). Our study provides valuable insight to mechanisms underlying drought response in maize seedlings. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular Mechanisms of Maize Response to Environmental Challenges)
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Article
Comparative Proteomic and Morpho-Physiological Analyses of Maize Wild-Type Vp16 and Mutant vp16 Germinating Seed Responses to PEG-Induced Drought Stress
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(22), 5586; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20225586 - 08 Nov 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1133
Abstract
Drought stress is a major abiotic factor compromising plant cell physiological and molecular events, consequently limiting crop growth and productivity. Maize (Zea mays L.) is among the most drought-susceptible food crops. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms underlying drought-stress responses remains critical for crop [...] Read more.
Drought stress is a major abiotic factor compromising plant cell physiological and molecular events, consequently limiting crop growth and productivity. Maize (Zea mays L.) is among the most drought-susceptible food crops. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms underlying drought-stress responses remains critical for crop improvement. To decipher the molecular mechanisms underpinning maize drought tolerance, here, we used a comparative morpho-physiological and proteomics analysis approach to monitor the changes in germinating seeds of two incongruent (drought-sensitive wild-type Vp16 and drought-tolerant mutant vp16) lines exposed to polyethylene-glycol-induced drought stress for seven days. Our physiological analysis showed that the tolerant line mutant vp16 exhibited better osmotic stress endurance owing to its improved reactive oxygen species scavenging competency and robust osmotic adjustment as a result of greater cell water retention and enhanced cell membrane stability. Proteomics analysis identified a total of 1200 proteins to be differentially accumulated under drought stress. These identified proteins were mainly involved in carbohydrate and energy metabolism, histone H2A-mediated epigenetic regulation, protein synthesis, signal transduction, redox homeostasis and stress-response processes; with carbon metabolism, pentose phosphate and glutathione metabolism pathways being prominent under stress conditions. Interestingly, significant congruence (R2 = 81.5%) between protein and transcript levels was observed by qRT-PCR validation experiments. Finally, we propose a hypothetical model for maize germinating-seed drought tolerance based on our key findings identified herein. Overall, our study offers insights into the overall mechanisms underpinning drought-stress tolerance and provides essential leads into further functional validation of the identified drought-responsive proteins in maize. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular Mechanisms of Maize Response to Environmental Challenges)
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Review

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Review
Heat Stress Responses and Thermotolerance in Maize
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2021, 22(2), 948; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms22020948 - 19 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 883
Abstract
High temperatures causing heat stress disturb cellular homeostasis and impede growth and development in plants. Extensive agricultural losses are attributed to heat stress, often in combination with other stresses. Plants have evolved a variety of responses to heat stress to minimize damage and [...] Read more.
High temperatures causing heat stress disturb cellular homeostasis and impede growth and development in plants. Extensive agricultural losses are attributed to heat stress, often in combination with other stresses. Plants have evolved a variety of responses to heat stress to minimize damage and to protect themselves from further stress. A narrow temperature window separates growth from heat stress, and the range of temperatures conferring optimal growth often overlap with those producing heat stress. Heat stress induces a cytoplasmic heat stress response (HSR) in which heat shock transcription factors (HSFs) activate a constellation of genes encoding heat shock proteins (HSPs). Heat stress also induces the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-localized unfolded protein response (UPR), which activates transcription factors that upregulate a different family of stress response genes. Heat stress also activates hormone responses and alternative RNA splicing, all of which may contribute to thermotolerance. Heat stress is often studied by subjecting plants to step increases in temperatures; however, more recent studies have demonstrated that heat shock responses occur under simulated field conditions in which temperatures are slowly ramped up to more moderate temperatures. Heat stress responses, assessed at a molecular level, could be used as traits for plant breeders to select for thermotolerance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Molecular Mechanisms of Maize Response to Environmental Challenges)
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