Tissue-specific gene expression in maize seeds during colonization by Aspergillus flavus and Fusarium verticillioides

Xiaomei Shu, David P. Livingston, Robert G. Franks, Rebecca S. Boston, Charles P. Woloshuk, Gary A. Payne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Aspergillus flavus and Fusarium verticillioides are fungal pathogens that colonize maize kernels and produce the harmful mycotoxins aflatoxin and fumonisin, respectively. Management practice based on potential host resistance to reduce contamination by these mycotoxins has proven difficult, resulting in the need for a better understanding of the infection process by these fungi and the response of maize seeds to infection. In this study, we followed the colonization of seeds by histological methods and the transcriptional changes of two maize defence-related genes in specific seed tissues by RNAinsitu hybridization. Maize kernels were inoculated with either A.flavus or F.verticillioides 21-22 days after pollination, and harvested at 4, 12, 24, 48, 72, 96 and 120h post-inoculation. The fungi colonized all tissues of maize seed, but differed in their interactions with aleurone and germ tissues. RNAinsitu hybridization showed the induction of the maize pathogenesis-related protein, maize seed (PRms) gene in the aleurone and scutellum on infection by either fungus. Transcripts of the maize sucrose synthase-encoding gene, shrunken-1 (Sh1), were observed in the embryo of non-infected kernels, but were induced on infection by each fungus in the aleurone and scutellum. By comparing histological and RNAinsitu hybridization results from adjacent serial sections, we found that the transcripts of these two genes accumulated in tissue prior to the arrival of the advancing pathogens in the seeds. A knowledge of the patterns of colonization and tissue-specific gene expression in response to these fungi will be helpful in the development of resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-674
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Plant Pathology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Aspergillus flavus
  • Fusarium verticillioides
  • Histology
  • Maize
  • PRms
  • RNAinsitu hybridization
  • Sh1


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