Comparative histological and transcriptional analysis of maize kernels infected with aspergillus flavus and fusarium verticillioides

Xiaomei Shu, David P. Livingston, Charles P. Woloshuk, Gary A. Payne

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Abstract

Aspergillus flavus and Fusarium verticillioides infect maize kernels and contaminate them with the mycotoxins aflatoxin, and fumonisin, respectively. Genetic resistance in maize to these fungi and to mycotoxin contamination has been difficult to achieve due to lack of identified resistance genes. The objective of this study was to identify new candidate resistance genes by characterizing their temporal expression in response to infection and comparing expression of these genes with genes known to be associated with plant defense. Fungal colonization and transcriptional changes in kernels inoculated with each fungus were monitored at 4, 12, 24, 48, and 72 h post inoculation (hpi). Maize kernels responded by differential gene expression to each fungus within 4 hpi, before the fungi could be observed visually, but more genes were differentially expressed between 48 and 72 hpi, when fungal colonization was more extensive. Two-way hierarchal clustering analysis grouped the temporal expression profiles of the 5,863 differentially expressed maize genes over all time points into 12 clusters. Many clusters were enriched for genes previously associated with defense responses to either A. flavus or F. verticillioides. Also within these expression clusters were genes that lacked either annotation or assignment to functional categories. This study provided a comprehensive analysis of gene expression of each A. flavus and F. verticillioidesduring infection of maize kernels, it identified genes expressed early and late in the infection process, and it provided a grouping of genes of unknown function with similarly expressed defense related genes that could inform selection of new genes as targets in breeding strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2075
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Volume8
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 6 2017

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Keywords

  • Aspergillus flavus
  • Fusarium verticillioides
  • Histology
  • Maize kernel
  • RNA-sequencing

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