, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 74–80 | Cite as

Changes in chloroplast ultrastructure in leaves of drought-stressed maize inbred lines

  • R. X. Shao
  • L. F. Xin
  • H. F. Zheng
  • L. L. Li
  • W. L. Ran
  • J. Mao
  • Q. H. Yang
Original Papers


Chloroplasts are commonly the site of the earliest abiotic injury visible in plant ultrastructure. In this study, six inbred lines of maize (Zea mays L.) were used to analyze changes in the ultrastructure of chloroplasts and related physiological parameters under conditions of drought stress simulated by 20% polyethylene glycol 6000 (−0.6 MPa) for two days. Chloroplasts of three maize lines proved to be more sensitive. They showed changes in the ultrastructure in response to drought, including damage of thylakoid membranes, an increase in the number and size of plastoglobuli, swelling of thylakoid membranes both stromal and granal, disorganization of the thylakoid membrane system, an obvious increase in the intrathylakoid space, and a decrease in the length-to-width ratio and area of chloroplasts. In addition, the contents of malondialdehyde increased markedly in the sensitive lines. Contrary to the sensitive lines, stable structures and shapes of chloroplasts were observed in the drought-resistant lines; it could be considered as an advantage contributing to drought tolerance in the plants. In addition, the drought index of leaf fresh mass (LMDI) in the drought-sensitive lines was ≤ 0.5, which was also associated with a lower content of leaf chlorophyll. In contrast, drought tolerance coincided with lesser growth reduction, and higher LMDI and leaf chlorophyll content.

Additional key words

biomass chlorophyll maize membrane peroxidation water content 



drought index


dry mass


fresh mass


granal thylakoids


leaf fresh matter of control plants


leaf fresh matter of plants under drought stress


drought index of leaf fresh mass






polyethylene glycol


reactive oxygen species


relative water content


starch grain


water potential


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Copyright information

© The Institute of Experimental Botany 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Collaborative Innovation Center of Henan Grain Crops, Agronomy College of Henan Agricultural UniversityNational Key Laboratory of Wheat and Maize Crop ScienceZhengzhouChina

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