Journal of Plant Growth Regulation

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 51–63 | Cite as

Ustilago maydis Produces Cytokinins and Abscisic Acid for Potential Regulation of Tumor Formation in Maize

  • Stacey A. Bruce
  • Barry J. Saville
  • R. J. Neil Emery


The infection of maize (Zea mays) by the basidiomycete fungus Ustilago maydis leads to common smut of corn characterized by the production of tumors in susceptible aboveground plant tissues. LC-(ES)MS/MS profiles of abscisic acid (ABA) and 12 different cytokinins (CKs) were determined for infected and uninfected maize tissues over a time course following fungal exposure. Samples were taken at points corresponding to the appearance of disease symptoms. Axenic cultures of haploid and dikaryon forms of U. maydis were also profiled. This study confirmed the capability of Ustilago maydis to synthesize CKs, ABA, and auxin (IAA). It also provided evidence for the involvement of CK and ABA in the U. maydis-maize infection process. Significant quantities of CKs and ABA were detected from axenic cultures of U. maydis as was IAA. CKs and ABA levels were elevated in leaves and stems of maize after infection; notable was the high level of cis-zeatin 9-riboside. Variation among hormone profiles of maize tissues was observed at different time points during infection and between infections with nonpathogenic haploid and pathogenic dikaryon strains. This suggested that CKs and ABA accumulate and are likely metabolized in maize tissue infected with U. maydis. Because U. maydis produced these phytohormones at significant levels, it is possible that the fungal pathogen is a source of these compounds in infected tissue. This is the first study to confirm the production of CKs and document the production of ABA by U. maydis. This study also established an involvement of these phytohormones and a possible functional role for ABA in U. maydis infection of maize.


Cytokinin Abscisic acid and auxin synthesis Plant tumor physiology Phytopathology 



Total abscisic acid




cisZ + cisZR + cisZRMP


cis-zeatin 9-riboside


cis-zeatin 9-riboside-5′-monophosphate








Dihydrozeatin 9-riboside


Dihydrozeatin 9-riboside-5′-monophosphate

Free bases

DHZ + IP + Z + cisZ


Total auxin (indole-3-acetic acid)






N6-(∆2isopentenyl)adenine 9-riboside


N6-(∆2isopentenyl)adenine 9-riboside-5′-monophosphate


Liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry




DHZR + iPR + ZR + cisZR






trans-zeatin 9-riboside


trans-zeatin 9-riboside-5′-monophosphate



Funding for this research was provided in the form of Discovery Grants awarded to RJNE and BJS by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stacey A. Bruce
    • 1
  • Barry J. Saville
    • 2
  • R. J. Neil Emery
    • 3
  1. 1.Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate ProgramTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada
  2. 2.Forensic Science DepartmentTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada
  3. 3.Biology DepartmentTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada

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