Systematic analysis of sequences and expression patterns of drought-responsive members of the HD-Zip gene family in maize

Yang Zhao, Yuqiong Zhou, Haiyang Jiang, Xiaoyu Li, Defang Gan, Xiaojian Peng, Suwen Zhu, Beijiu Cheng
PloS One 2011, 6 (12): e28488

BACKGROUND: Members of the homeodomain-leucine zipper (HD-Zip) gene family encode transcription factors that are unique to plants and have diverse functions in plant growth and development such as various stress responses, organ formation and vascular development. Although systematic characterization of this family has been carried out in Arabidopsis and rice, little is known about HD-Zip genes in maize (Zea mays L.).

METHODS AND FINDINGS: In this study, we described the identification and structural characterization of HD-Zip genes in the maize genome. A complete set of 55 HD-Zip genes (Zmhdz1-55) were identified in the maize genome using Blast search tools and categorized into four classes (HD-Zip I-IV) based on phylogeny. Chromosomal location of these genes revealed that they are distributed unevenly across all 10 chromosomes. Segmental duplication contributed largely to the expansion of the maize HD-ZIP gene family, while tandem duplication was only responsible for the amplification of the HD-Zip II genes. Furthermore, most of the maize HD-Zip I genes were found to contain an overabundance of stress-related cis-elements in their promoter sequences. The expression levels of the 17 HD-Zip I genes under drought stress were also investigated by quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR). All of the 17 maize HD-ZIP I genes were found to be regulated by drought stress, and the duplicated genes within a sister pair exhibited the similar expression patterns, suggesting their conserved functions during the process of evolution.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results reveal a comprehensive overview of the maize HD-Zip gene family and provide the first step towards the selection of Zmhdz genes for cloning and functional research to uncover their roles in maize growth and development.

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