Expression analysis of genes encoding mitogen-activated protein kinases in maize provides a key link between abiotic stress signaling and plant reproduction

Wei Sun, Hao Chen, Juan Wang, Hong Wei Sun, Shu Ke Yang, Ya Lin Sang, Xing Bo Lu, Xiao Hui Xu
Functional & Integrative Genomics 2015, 15 (1): 107-20
Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) play important roles in stress responses and development in plants. Maize (Zea mays), an important cereal crop, is a model plant species for molecular studies. In the last decade, several MAPKs have been identified in maize; however, their functions have not been studied extensively. Genome-wide identification and expression analysis of maize MAPK genes could provide valuable information for understanding their functions. In this study, 20 non-redundant maize MAPK genes (ZmMPKs) were identified via a genome-wide survey. Phylogenetic analysis of MAPKs from maize, rice (Oryza sativa), Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), poplar (Populus trichocarpa), and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) classified them into four major classes. ZmMPKs in the same class had similar domains, motifs, and genomic structures. Gene duplication investigations suggested that segmental duplications made a large contribution to the expansion of ZmMPKs. A number of cis-acting elements related to plant development and response to stress and hormones were identified in the promoter regions of ZmMPKs. Furthermore, transcript profile analysis in eight tissues and organs at various developmental stages demonstrated that most ZmMPKs were preferentially expressed in reproductive tissues and organs. The transcript abundance of most ZmMPKs changed significantly under salt, drought, cold, or abscisic acid (ABA) treatments, implying that they might participate in abiotic stress and ABA signaling. These expression analyses indicated that ZmMPKs might serve as linkers between abiotic stress signaling and plant reproduction. Our data will deepen our understanding of the complexity of the maize MAPK gene family and provide new clues to investigate their functions.

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