Plant Molecular Biology Reporter

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 360–369 | Cite as

Root Morphology and Gene Expression Analysis in Response to Drought Stress in Maize (Zea mays)

  • Tingbo Jiang
  • Jake Fountain
  • Georgia Davis
  • Robert Kemerait
  • Brian Scully
  • R. Dewey Lee
  • Baozhu GuoEmail author


Water-deficit stress tolerance is a complex trait, and water deficit results in various physiological and chemical changes in maize (Zea mays L.) and exacerbates pre-harvest aflatoxin contamination. The objective of this study was to characterize the variations in morphology, physiology, and gene expression in two contrasting inbred lines, Lo964 and Lo1016, in order to understand the differences in response to water-deficit stress. The results revealed that Lo964 was less sensitive to water-deficit stress, and had a strong lateral root system and a higher root/shoot ratio in comparison to Lo1016. In response to water-deficit stress by comparing stressed versus well-watered conditions, abscisic acid syntheses were increased in leaves, roots, and kernels of both Lo964 and Lo1016, but by different magnitudes. Indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) was undetectable in the leaves and roots of either genotype regardless of treatments, but increases of 58% and 8% in IAA concentration were observed in 20 DAP kernels, in response to water-deficit stress, respectively. The expression of the MIPS was up-regulated 7-fold in leaf tissues of Lo964 compared to Lo1016 at watered conditions, but decreased significantly to similar levels in both genotypes at water-deficit conditions. ZmPR10 and ZmFer1 expressions tended to up-regulate although ZmPR10 was expressed higher in root tissue while ZmFer1 was expressed higher in leaf tissue. Further study is needed to confirm if Lo964 has reduced aflatoxin contamination associated with the drought tolerance in the field in order to utilize the resistant trait in breeding.


Water-deficit stress Phytohormone Polyethylene glycol Real-time PCR Zea mays 



Abscisic acid


Days after pollination


Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay


Indole-3-acetic acid


Myo-inositol 1-phosphate synthase


Polyethylene glycol


Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction


Reactive oxygen species


Maize ferritin


Maize pathogenesis-related protein 10



We thank Billy Wilson and Stephanie Lee for technical assistance in the field and the laboratory. Seeds of both inbred lines Lo964 and L01016 were provided by Doug Davis, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO. This research was partially supported by funds provided by the USDA Agricultural Research Service and the Georgia Agricultural Commodity Commission for Corn. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag (outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tingbo Jiang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jake Fountain
    • 3
    • 4
  • Georgia Davis
    • 5
  • Robert Kemerait
    • 1
  • Brian Scully
    • 3
  • R. Dewey Lee
    • 6
  • Baozhu Guo
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Plant PathologyUniversity of GeorgiaTiftonUSA
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Forest Tree Genetic Improvement and Biotechnology of Ministry of EducationNortheastern Forestry UniversityHarbinChina
  3. 3.Agricultural Research Service, Crop Protection and Management Research UnitUSDATiftonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Plant Pathology and PhysiologyLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  5. 5.Division of Plant SciencesUniversity of Missouri–ColumbiaColumbiaUSA
  6. 6.Department of Crop and Soil SciencesUniversity of GeorgiaTiftonUSA

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