Molecular dissection of heterosis manifestation during early maize root development
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- Paschold, A., Marcon, C., Hoecker, N. et al. Theor Appl Genet (2010) 120: 383. doi:10.1007/s00122-009-1082-6
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Heterosis is of paramount agronomic importance and has been successfully exploited in maize hybrid breeding for decades. Nevertheless, the molecular basis of heterosis remains elusive. Heterosis is not only observed in adult traits like yield or plant height, but is already detected during embryo and seedling development. Hence, the maize (Zea mays L.) primary root which is the first organ that emerges after germination is a suitable model to study heterosis manifestation. Various seedling root traits including primary root length and lateral root density display heterosis. Microarray studies suggest organ specific patterns of nonadditive gene expression in maize hybrids. Moreover, such experiments support the notion that global expression trends in maize primary roots are conserved between different hybrids. Furthermore, nonadditive expression patterns of specific genes such as a SUPEROXIDE DISMUTASE 2 might contribute to the early manifestation of heterosis. Proteome profiling experiments of maize hybrid primary roots revealed nonadditive accumulation patterns that were distinct from the corresponding RNA profiles underscoring the importance of posttranscriptional processes such as protein modifications that might be related to heterosis. Finally, analysis of selected metabolites imply that a subtle regulation of particular biochemical pathways such as the phenylpropanoid pathway in hybrids might contribute to the manifestation of heterosis in maize primary roots. In the future, recently developed molecular tools will facilitate the analysis of the molecular principles underlying heterosis in maize roots.