Logo of pnasPNASInfo for AuthorsSubscriptionsAboutThis Article
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Oct 16, 2007; 104(42): 16450–16455.
Published online Oct 8, 2007. doi:  10.1073/pnas.0707193104
PMCID: PMC2034233
Agricultural Sciences

Plant nuclear factor Y (NF-Y) B subunits confer drought tolerance and lead to improved corn yields on water-limited acres


Commercially improved crop performance under drought conditions has been challenging because of the complexity of the trait and the multitude of factors that influence yield. Here we report the results of a functional genomics approach that identified a transcription factor from the nuclear factor Y (NF-Y) family, AtNF-YB1, which acts through a previously undescribed mechanism to confer improved performance in Arabidopsis under drought conditions. An orthologous maize transcription factor, ZmNF-YB2, is shown to have an equivalent activity. Under water-limited conditions, transgenic maize plants with increased ZmNF-YB2 expression show tolerance to drought based on the responses of a number of stress-related parameters, including chlorophyll content, stomatal conductance, leaf temperature, reduced wilting, and maintenance of photosynthesis. These stress adaptations contribute to a grain yield advantage to maize under water-limited environments. The application of this technology has the potential to significantly impact maize production systems that experience drought.

Keywords: Arabidopsis, maize, transgenic, transcription factor

Improved productivity under periodic drought stress is a major challenge for global agriculture. Increasing the yield of agricultural crops grown under drought conditions is challenging because of the low heritability of the trait, the unpredictable nature of most periods of drought stress encountered in growing areas, and gaps in our understanding of drought biology (1, 2). As a consequence, new approaches were sought for improving the performance of crops grown under periodic drought conditions (36). We used a functional genomics strategy, with the Arabidopsis model system, to identify molecular regulators of drought stress adaptation in plants. The Arabidopsis findings are shown to be directly applicable to commercial crop improvement.

Maize crops are impacted by drought throughout the life cycle, with the greatest losses being observed when stress occurs in the development phase just before and after flowering (7). During periods of decreased water availability, plants often exhibit stress symptoms, including increased leaf senescence and cellular damage due to photooxidative stress, as well as reduced leaf expansion, carbon fixation, and negative effects on reproductive development. Together, these processes result in an overall decrease in the total carbon assimilated per plant and reductions in grain yield (810).

Integration of multiple stress response pathways during these critical vegetative and reproductive development windows is an effective strategy to significantly impact crop performance under field conditions. Transcription factors can be used to elicit multiple biochemical and developmental pathways that regulate drought tolerance, thereby improving performance during drought. The best stress-responsive transcription factors are the C-repeat-binding factor (CBF)/dehydration-responsive element-binding (DREB) proteins that belong to the AP2/ethylene-responsive element-binding protein family (11, 12). These factors enhance or modulate the expression of genes with a CBF/DRE box in their promoters and define a major stress tolerance pathway, in addition to the abscisic acid (ABA) biosynthesis/response pathway. However, although increased expression of CBF/DREB proteins has been shown to confer drought tolerance in a growing number of plant species (13), other less-desirable developmental phenotypes, such as stunted growth, are often associated with high constitutive expression. The use of drought-responsive promoters to induce CBF/DREB expression under drought stress conditions has increased the specificity for drought tolerance vs. other undesirable developmental phenotypes (14). Further examples of stress-responsive factors that condition dehydration tolerance have been reviewed recently (15).

Because there are many mechanisms by which plants can tolerate drought, and because transcription factors are well established as regulators of genetic pathways, we reasoned that additional transcription factors would exist that modulate drought responses. A genome-wide systematic analysis of Arabidopsis transcription factor families (16) was conducted to identify genes that improve tolerance to environmental stress. A selection of transcription factors was discovered from a range of families that condition enhanced abiotic stress tolerance when constitutively expressed in Arabidopsis. Here, the focus is on the role in eliciting drought tolerance of one of these transcription factors, AtNF-YB1, a subunit of the nuclear factor Y (NF-Y complex, also known as the HAP or the CAAT family), which mediates transcriptional control through CCAAT DNA elements.

NF-Y is a conserved heterotrimeric complex consisting of NF-YA (HAP2), NF-YB (HAP3), and NF-YC (HAP5) subunits (17). Fungi and animals use single genes to encode each protein subunit. NF-Y transcription factors typically act in concert with other regulatory factors to modulate gene expression in a highly controlled manner. In plants, NF-Y genes have been amplified with ≈10 different genes encoding each subunit of the transcription factor complex (1820). Amplification of the family raises the possibility that new and divergent functions of heterotrimeric complexes have evolved in plants.

We identified an NF-YB protein from Arabidopsis thaliana and an orthologous NF-YB protein from Zea mays that coordinate plant responses to drought tolerance. Our data suggest functional conservation of the underlying drought tolerance pathway across the dicot and monocot lineages. Drought tolerance has been obtained in field trials with maize lines constitutively expressing the ZmNF-YB2 protein, demonstrating the potential of this strategy for improving drought tolerance in commercial crop plants.


Drought Tolerance of Arabidopsis AtNF-YB1 Constitutive Expression Lines.

AtNF-YB1 (AT2G38880) was identified as a putative regulator of drought-related stress tolerance in a large-scale functional genomics program performed in Arabidopsis. Briefly, the effects of constitutive expression of >1,500 putative transcription factor genes from Arabidopsis were examined during this screen (R.A.C., R.W.K., O.J.R., and J.E.H., unpublished results). For each transcription factor, multiple independently transformed lines were established and subjected to a panel of plate-based surrogate drought assays including mannitol, PEG, salt, sugar, ABA, heat, cold, and severe dehydration treatments. Transcription factor constitutive expression lines that exhibited a good performance in one or more of these assays were then subjected to more extensive carefully controlled drought assays under soil grown conditions. AtNF-YB1 was one of ≈40 different transcription factor genes that were confirmed as regulators for enhancement of drought tolerance during this work.

Transgenic Arabidopsis plants that constitutively express AtNF-YB1 were obtained by transforming Col-0 wild-type plants with the cDNA version of the gene under the control of an enhanced 35S promoter. 35S::AtNF-YB1 lines were visually wild type in their morphology except for a slight but reproducible delay in flowering, which typically occurred 1–6 days late. For example, under continuous light conditions, plants from a representative line, no. 3, showed visible flower buds after an average of 31.1 days vs. 25.7 days for the control plants. Initial screening identified several independent 35S::AtNF-YB1 lines that showed slightly more vigorous germination than controls under conditions of osmotic stress (9.4% sucrose and 14% polyethylene glycol; data not shown). Based on the results from osmotic stress screens, 35S::AtNF-YB1 Arabidopsis lines grown in soil were subjected to drought survival assays. 35S::AtNF-YB1 plants typically exhibited less severe wilting than wild-type plants after a severe drought period (Fig. 1). Six of eight independent lines tested showed an increased rate of survival compared with controls (P < 0.1) upon re-watering following drought (Table 1).

Fig. 1.
Constitutive expression of AtNF-YB1 confers drought tolerance in Arabidopsis. Representative pots of transgenic plants (Left) and controls (Right) are shown at the end of a dry-down period (Upper) and at 5 days after rewatering (Lower).
Table 1.
Survival of 35S::AtNF-YB1 Arabidopsis lines in a soil drought assay relative to wild type

To gain an understanding of the physiological basis for the enhanced survival rate, a representative line (no. 3) was chosen for further in-depth analysis. Transgenic and control plants were grown side by side in flats to the early reproductive stage of development, after which time a drought stress treatment was applied to one-half of the plants. Physiological measurements were made on droughted plants displaying leaf wilting. During drought treatment, transgenic plants maintained higher water potential and photosynthesis rates (measured under saturating CO2 conditions) than controls, both of which are key phenotypes related to plant productivity (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2.
Arabidopsis transgenic lines have improved drought physiology. Water potential (Upper) and photosynthesis measured under saturating CO2 conditions (Lower) of Arabidopsis plants measured during a stress treatment applied at the early reproductive stage ...

The above results demonstrated that an increase in AtNF-YB1 activity was sufficient to increase tolerance to water deprivation in Arabidopsis. We therefore conducted expression profiling experiments on the 35S::AtNF-YB1 lines to determine whether the protein was acting through a previously recognized molecular response pathway.

Microarray Analysis of 35S::AtNF-YB1 Arabidopsis Lines.

A “full-genome” baseline transcript profiling experiment was performed on nonstressed whole-rosette tissue from 35S::AtNF-YB1 seedlings grown under 24-hr light. Surprisingly, relatively few genes were represented in the profile; even when a low stringency cutoff was applied, only 108 of ≈23,000 distinct genes were differentially expressed relative to wild-type controls [nonfalse discovery rate-corrected data, P < 0.01; supporting information (SI) Methods and SI Table 3]. The small size of the profile likely indicated that AtNF-YB1 acts near the end of a response pathway, or that its effects were due to constitutive or misexpression in specific tissues or at particular developmental or temporal stages. Gene ontology analysis at the “biological process” level indicated that the most overrepresented processes in the 35S::AtNF-YB1 profile were related to polysaccharide metabolism, in various forms. However, none of the categories were obviously related to stress tolerance.

To assess whether the mechanism of drought tolerance in 35S::AtNF-YB1 plants is novel, we made comparisons between the 35S::AtNF-YB1 profile and the profiles from ABA-treated wild-type plants and from CBF4 transcription factor-expressing plants, each of which have well known drought-tolerance pathway genes induced (21). The genes regulated by constitutive expression of AtNF-YB1 did not significantly overlap with those regulated in response to ABA treatment nor those expressed in 35S::CBF4 plants (which show strong correlation with known drought/stress-response pathways). The heat map in Fig. 3 shows the expression pattern for all genes significantly (P < 0.01 uncorrected) expressed in either 35S::AtNF-YB1 or 35S::CBF4 untreated seedlings (compared with wild type), as well as how those genes responded at 4 h after ABA treatment in wild-type seedlings (compared with a mock treatment). Although a significant set of genes was similarly induced by ABA and CBF4 constitutive expression (see SI Table 3), no such correlation was found with the expression profile of 35S::AtNF-YB1.

Fig. 3.
Agglomerative cluster of all genes (minus hybridization controls) that are differentially expressed in the seedling profiles from 35S::CBF4 plants or 35S::AtNF-YB1 (vs. wild-type) plants, as well as the regulation of those genes at 4 h after treatment ...

To confirm that AtNF-YB1 was not acting through previously characterized drought-response mechanisms even during water deficit, several component genes from the CBF and ABA response pathways were selected (see SI Table 4), and we examined their expression by RT-PCR in an independent experiment on 35S::AtNF-YB1 and wild-type Arabidopsis grown under either well watered or droughted conditions (see SI Methods). None of the ABA pathway markers (CBF4, RD29B, or RAB18) or CBF pathway markers (COR15B, KIN1, and LEA76) showed significant and consistent differences in expression between 35S::AtNF-YB1 plants and controls (data shown as SI Fig. 7). Thus, based on these markers, AtNF-YB1 does not transcriptionally regulate either the CBF or ABA drought tolerance pathways.

AtNF-YB1 Has a Native Role in Drought Responses.

Under normal well watered conditions, AtNF-YB1 is expressed across a range of different organs and tissue types in wild-type plants (19, 20). To determine whether AtNF-YB1 is part of a native drought-response pathway, quantitative RT-PCR was used to examine the expression profile of the gene in mature leaves from soil-grown wild-type plants harvested over a drought time course. AtNF-YB1 transcript levels showed a highly significant increase of ≈12-fold (≈3.5 PCR cycles) under severe drought relative to well watered conditions and then returned to basal levels by 24 h after rewatering (Fig. 4). Thus, AtNF-YB1 is a component of a previously unrecognized transcription-regulated response to water deprivation.

Fig. 4.
Quantitative RT-PCR was used to measure AtNF-YB1 transcript accumulation in wild-type plants over a drought timecourse. Relative water contents for the indicated treatments were 0.82 (well watered), 0.81 (mild drought), 0.60 (moderate drought), 0.29 (severe ...

Collectively, these initial results for AtNF-YB1 in Arabidopsis indicated an evolved function for the NF-YB transcription factor family and suggested a new molecular strategy for enhancing crop drought tolerance. We therefore examined whether a comparable mechanism was present, and useful for enhancing drought tolerance, in maize.

Drought Tolerance of OsRACT::ZmNF-YB2 Maize Lines.

Bioinformatic analysis was used to identify maize homologs of AtNF-YB1. One of these homologs, ZmNF-YB2, was selected for constitutive expression studies in maize. A phylogenetic analysis comparing this maize protein with 10 different Arabidopsis NF-YB proteins (19, 20) revealed that ZmNF-YB2 is most closely related to AtNF-YB1 (SI Fig. 8). Furthermore, like AtNF-YB1, ZmNF-YB2 is expressed broadly across maize tissues (data not shown).

ZmNF-YB2 was used to transform an elite maize inbred. The recombinant DNA constructs comprised a rice actin 1 constitutive promoter and a rice actin 1 intron linked to the maize gene. Transgenic maize lines were tested in a greenhouse drought assay, with plants being subjected to 10 days of drought, followed by 3 days of full-water recovery, followed by 9 days of drought, and finally full watering. After 2 days of full watering, the plants that had been subjected to two drought stress treatments usually began to show signs of recovery from a wilted state. However, in some cases, recovery took up to 5–6 days of full watering, and some individual plants never recovered. On average, the recovered transgenic plants were significantly greener and more rapidly reestablished growth than the recovered wild-type plants. The transgenic lines also exhibited less wilting, indicating increased turgor pressure and delayed onset of senescence compared with controls (Fig. 5A). Four independent lines showed improved drought tolerance in greenhouse experiments. These results indicated evolutionary conservation of a novel function within the NF-YB family and suggested the existence of common stress-response pathways in maize and Arabidopsis.

Fig. 5.
Transgenic maize plants in greenhouse and field have visually observable improved drought tolerance. In both photographs, controls are in the left flat or row, and transgenics expressing ZmNF-YB2 are in the right flat or row.

Field studies were conducted to investigate the relationship between stress tolerance and enhanced productivity by subjecting OsRACT::ZmNF-YB2 transgenic maize lines and negative segregant controls to drought conditions. Water was withheld from half of the planted field area during the late vegetative stage; under drought conditions, the transgenic maize plants constitutively expressing ZmNF-YB2 were healthier than the wild-type plants with less leaf rolling (Fig. 5B) and exhibited the following phenotypes: a higher chlorophyll index, higher photosynthesis rate, cooler leaf temperature, and higher stomatal conductance (Table 2). The physiological data represent the combined analysis of six independent lines. Under conditions of ample water supply, OsRACT::ZmNF-YB2 transgenic maize lines were darker green, flowered 1–3 days earlier than the controls, and had slightly compressed internodes. All other standard agronomic traits, such as early stand, disease ratings, occurrence of lodging, and grain quality, were not different as compared with the negative segregant controls (data not shown).

Table 2.
Drought-related phenotypes impacted by ZmNF-YB2

In field efficacy trials, grain yield was measured under controlled drought treatments; the imposed drought stress resulted in a >50% yield reduction in the negative controls compared with what is expected under fully watered normal conditions. In Year 1, stress levels were notably higher than in Year 2, with negative controls achieving a base yield of 74 bushels per acre (4.6 metric tons per hectare) in Year 1 and a base yield of 102 bushels per acre (6.4 metric tons per hectare) in Year 2 (Fig. 6). For both years, three lines were found to have improved yield (P < 0.1), indicating that transgenic expression of ZmNF-YB2 in maize enhances yield under drought stress. Furthermore, when analyzed across lines within the construct, average yield was greater than the average of negative segregants. It is noteworthy that a greater yield benefit, for two of the three lines, was observed during 2003, under a more intense drought stress as compared with 2004. Indeed, under such relatively severe conditions, the best-performing transgenic maize line (Line 3) produced an ≈50% increase in yield relative to controls in the same experiment.

Fig. 6.
Three transgenic maize lines demonstrate improved yield in 2 years of yield testing. Values plotted are increase on a percentage basis of transgenics over controls. All differences plotted are significant at P < 0.1. Data from three independent ...


We have discovered that expression of certain CCAAT-binding transcription factors in plants imparts significant tolerance to drought, resulting in increased yield. This represents a previously unrecognized function for the NF-Y gene family in plants. To date, knowledge of the function of plant NF-Y genes has been limited. Recently, a number of NF-YB subunits in rice have been inferred as necessary for chloroplast function based on data from antisense and RNAi experiments (22). More recently, representatives of the NF-YC and NF-YB subunits of the trimeric complex have been implicated in the recruitment of CONSTANS-Like transcription factors to their DNA targets in planta, potentially mediating the effect of CONSTANS-like proteins on flowering time (23, 24). Additionally, in Arabidopsis, the LEC1 and LEC1-like proteins, which encode NF-YB subunits, have been found to be essential for embryo development. The LEC1 and LEC1-like proteins are phylogenetically and functionally distinct from other NF-YB subunits such as AtNF-YB1 (refs. 25 and 26; SI Fig. 8). Indeed, it seems likely that a number of the other non-LEC1-like NF-YB subunits have related or overlapping roles to AtNF-YB1. This is supported by the fact that we have been unable to detect any marked changes in drought sensitivity in either of two independent T-DNA insertion lines for AtNF-YB1 (data not shown).

Drought tolerance is a novel function for the NF-Y transcription factor family that presumably evolved through diversification among members of the gene family encoding the B subunit. Despite the complexity of overcoming drought-induced effects in land plants, modulated expression of individual signal transduction pathways has emerged as a good strategy for conditioning enhanced drought tolerance in plants. The same strategy is expected to be applicable to many crops commonly grown in locations subject to drought. These crop results have validated our functional genomics approach in the Arabidopsis model for identifying novel drought tolerance mechanisms with practical applications in crop production.

Our data support a role for the AtNF-YB1 and the ZmNF-YB2 genes in a drought-adaptive mechanism. This adaptive mechanism is regulated by a set of structurally conserved CCAAT family members conserved in both dicots and monocots. The observed drought-tolerance mechanisms elicited through constitutive expression of NF-YB proteins are components of normal responses to drought conditions. The stress-adaptation responses contribute to a yield advantage in maize that is grown within drought environments. The application of this technology is therefore expected to have the most significant impact on severely water-limited maize production systems. A focus of our ongoing work is to characterize the effects of this technology over a greater range of environments. Further technical refinements, such as more specifically controlled expression, may be needed to expand the application to environments that experience less-severe or sporadic drought effects.

Materials and Methods

Arabidopsis Cloning, Transformation, and Mutant Line Generation.

Experiments were performed by using Arabidopsis Col-0. The AtNF-YB1 cDNA (T45165) was obtained from a library generated by the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory at Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI). The clone was resequenced and deposited in the GenBank database (accession no. DQ333305). Arabidopsis plants were transformed by the floral dip method (27, 28) using Agrobacterium carrying a standard transformation construct P46, which contained a kanamycin-resistance selectable marker system driven by a nopaline synthase promoter and the AtNF-YB1 cDNA downstream from the cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter. Homozygous mutants for each of two independent T-DNA insertion alleles within AtNF-YB1 were established from seed lots supplied by the Arabidopsis Biological Research Center at Ohio State University (Columbus, OH). Both insertions were derived from the SALK collection (SALK_032272.55.75.x, GenBank accession no. BH612182.1, and SALK_109993.42.55.x, GenBank accession no. BZ664699.1). Homozygotes for each of these insertions showed wild-type morphology except for a slight acceleration in flowering. Constitutive expression of AtNF-YB1 in the 35S::AtNF-YB1 lines was verified by RT-PCR experiments on RNA extracted from shoots and roots. Constitutive expression of AtNF-YB1 protein in the 35S lines and its absence in the mutant lines was confirmed by Western blots using an AtNF-YB1 antibody.

Arabidopsis Drought-Survival Assays.

Seeds were sterilized by a 2-min EtOH treatment followed by 20 min in 30% bleach/0.01% Tween and five washes in distilled water. Seeds were sown on MS agar in 0.1% agarose and stratified for 3 days at 4°C before transfer to growth chambers with a temperature of 22°C. After 7 days of growth on plates, seedlings were transplanted to 9-cm-diameter clay pots containing a 1:1 vermiculite:perlite mixture topped with soil. Each pot contained 14 seedlings of a transgenic line or the control plants, and 5–45 pots each of a transgenic line and the control were included in each run of the experiment. Pots were placed in a growth room under 24-h light conditions (18–23°C and 90–100 μmol photosynthetic active radiation m−2·s−1) and watered for a period of 14 days. To apply a drought treatment, water was then withheld, and pots were placed on absorbent paper for a period of 8 days. After 8 days of water deprivation, pots were rewatered. The number of surviving plants in each pot was counted at ≈5 days after rewatering.

Arabidopsis Drought Physiology Experiments.

Five-week-old Arabidopsis plants grown under a 10-h day with an average daytime temperature of 21°C were used in this experiment. Plants were grown in 10-cm pots. To impose drought, water was withheld for 8 days followed by a partial recovery adding 20 ml of water per pot. The drought was extended for 3 more days, followed by a full rewatering and recovery. Physiological measurements were made on plants during drought when severely stressed. Assimilation of CO2 was estimated by using a LICOR-6400 CO2 gas exchange analyzer fitted with a LICOR 6400–15 Arabidopsis leaf chamber (LICOR, Lincoln, NE) and measuring the largest most fully mature leaf. To attempt to distinguish stomatal from nonstomatal effects of drought on photosynthesis, a saturating CO2 level of 1,000 ppm was provided by using the 6400-01 CO2 injection system and CO2 cartridges using a flow of 500 μmol s−1. Measurements were taken when the coefficient of variation over the previous 15 s for changes in CO2, water, and flow was <1%. A metal-halide lamp cooled with a water bath provided light at a field-relevant photosynthesis-saturating level of 1,000 μmol photosynthetic active radiation m−2·s−1. Arabidopsis leaf water potential was measured by thermocouple psychrometry with a 14-channel Wescor/Campbell Water Potential System [C-52 sample chambers (WESCOR, Logan, UT), plus the CR 7 Measurement and Control System (Campbell, Logan, UT)]. Leaf discs from the youngest fully expanded leaf were placed in the sample chamber. Data were collected and converted to water potential with the CR7 Measurement and Control System and the company-provided software.

Corn Cloning, Transformation, and Expression Analysis.

Bioinformatic analysis was used to identify maize homologs of AtNF-YB1. The corn NF-YB gene tested here (ZmNF-YB2) was obtained from a nmh56′//′]Monsanto maize cDNA library; its sequence has been deposited under GenBank accession no. DQ333304. A corn transformation vector was prepared with rice actin promoter and 5′ UTR with an embedded intron (OsRACT) driving the expression of ZmNF-YB2. The selectable marker cassette for this vector included npt II driven with an enhanced cauliflower mosaic virus promoter and Agrobacterium nopaline synthase terminator. Transformation of an elite maize inbred was by the method described by Armstrong and Rout (29). Maize transgenic lines with either one or two copies of the construct and no oriV origin of replication from the vector were selected. All transgenic lines were confirmed to express the transgene in multiple subsequent generations via an anti-NF-YB antibody.

Corn Greenhouse Drought Experiments.

Pregerminated seedlings of transgenic plants (progeny of a heterozygous transgenic plant that inherited the exogenous transcription factor DNA construct) and wild-type plants (progeny of a heterozygous transgenic plant that did not inherit the exogenous transcription factor DNA construct) were planted in 12.5-cm pots containing 330 g of soil. The plants were well watered for 1 week and then allowed to dry for 4 days. An equal number (32) of transgenic and wild-type plants were selected based on matched height, and the selected plants were mixed in eight flats. Four flats were designated as “wet,” meaning they would be well watered, and four flats were designated as “dry,” meaning they would be subjected to drought. All pots were brought to the weight of the heaviest pot by adding water, with well watered pots weighing ≈800 g. The pots were weighed daily until the average pot weight dropped to between 600 and 700 g. At that weight, a drought assay was started by measuring plant heights and resuming watering for pots in wet flats while continuing to withhold water for pots in dry flats. The pots in the wet flats were fully watered daily. The pots in the dry flats were weighed daily to determine a drought treatment. If the average dry flat pot weight was >500 g, no water was added; if the average pot weight was between 365 and 500 g, 35 g of water was added to each pot; if the average pot weight was <365 g, a determined amount of water was added to bring the average pot weight to 400 g. The drought treatment was continued until the pots in the dry flats had an average pot weight <500 g for 8 days. The height of all transgenic and control plants was measured on the ninth day. On the ninth day, full watering was resumed for the dry flat pots for 3 days, after which heights were again measured. Recovered plants were subjected to a second round of drought as described above. After 9 days of drought, full water was resumed for 7 days.

Corn Field Physiology Experiments and Yield Testing.

The chlorophyll index was measured by using a Minolta (Spectrum Technologies, Plainfield, IL) SPAD 502 Meter. Photosynthesis, stomatal conductance, and leaf temperature were measured by using the PP Systems (Amesbury, MA) Ciras-1 Portable Photosynthesis System. Leaf photosynthesis was measured at an atmospheric [CO2] of 367 μmol·mol−1, an ambient water vapor pressure of 2.3 kPa, and a leaf air vapor pressure deficit between 0.6 and 1.5 kPa. Measurements were made midday with photosynthetic photon flux density between 1,200 and 1,400 μmol·m−2·s−1, attained by orientating the leaf chamber perpendicular to incident light. Measurements were made midway along the most recent fully expanded leaves and measured on six plants within each of six field replications, per event and per control, during the drought period. Yield data were collected from two experiments. In the first year, data were evaluated from a single six-replication drought efficacy trial using a Split-Split-Split block design in Kansas. This trial was the source of the physiology data shown. In the following field season, a multilocation study using group unbalanced block design with three replicates within each location was performed. All inbred lines were tested as two different maize hybrids, and four commercial varieties were planted as additional controls. For all drought trials, supplied irrigation kept plants well watered at all periods except during flowering, when irrigation was withheld to achieve an ≈7.5-cm water deficit compared with normal irrigation practice. Multiple independent lines were included in the tests to reduce the potential influence of positional effects on expression levels or the activity of genes neighboring the insertion site that in turn might impact efficacy and yield.

Supplementary Material

Supporting Information:


We thank Donna Scherer, Thomas Kelley, Lynne Reuber, and Graham Hymus for extensive discussions and assistance with the preparation of the manuscript. We are also grateful to Hans Holtan for assistance with the microarray data analysis and to Jaishree Chittoor, Kris Hardeman, Paul Schaffer, Tiffani Bauder, Alemu Belachew, Larry Biando, Kurt Schellenburg, and Bethany Wexler for excellent experimental assistance.


nuclear factor Y
abscisic acid.


The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Data deposition: The sequences presented in this paper have been deposited in the GenBank database (accession nos. DQ333304 and DQ333305).

This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/0707193104/DC1.


1. Bruce WB, Edmeades GO, Barker TC. J Exp Bot. 2002;53:13–25. [PubMed]
2. Tuberosa R, Salvi S, Sanguineti MC, Landi P, Maccaferri M, Conti S. Ann Bot (Lond) 2002;89:941–963. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
3. Gutterson N, Zhang JZ. Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2004;7:226–230. [PubMed]
4. Sharp RE, Poroyko V, Hejlek LG, Spollen WG, Springer GK, Bohnert HJ, Nguyen HT. J Exp Bot. 2004;55:2343–2351. [PubMed]
5. Bressan RA, Zhang C, Zhang H, Hasegawa PM, Bohnert HJ, Zhu JK. Plant Physiol. 2001;127:1354–1360. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
6. Cushman JC, Bohnert HJ. Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2000;3:117–124. [PubMed]
7. Claassen MM, Shaw RH. Agron J. 1970;62:652–655.
8. Hall AJ, Lemcoff JH, Trapani N. Maydica. 1981;XXVI:19–38.
9. Bolanos J, Edmeades GO. Field Crops Res. 1996;48:65–80.
10. Chapman SC, Edmeades GO. Crop Sci. 1999;39:1315–1324.
11. Maruyama K, Sakuma Y, Kasuga M, Ito Y, Seki M, Goda H, Shimada Y, Yoshida S, Shinozaki K, Yamaguchi-Shinozaki K. Plant J. 2004;38:982–993. [PubMed]
12. Gilmour SJ, Fowler SG, Thomashow MF. Plant Mol Biol. 2004;54:767–781. [PubMed]
13. Zhang JZ, Creelman RA, Zhu JK. Plant Physiol. 2004;135:615–621. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
14. Kasuga M, Liu Q, Miura S, Yamaguchi-Shinozaki K, Shinozaki K. Nat Biotechnol. 1999;17:287–291. [PubMed]
15. Umezawa T, Fujita M, Fujita Y, Yamaguchi-Shinozaki K, Shinozaki K. Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2006;17:113–122. [PubMed]
16. Riechmann JL, Heard J, Martin G, Reuber L, Jiang C, Keddie J, Adam L, Pineda O, Ratcliffe OJ, Samaha RR, et al. Science. 2000;290:2105–2110. [PubMed]
17. Mantovani R. Gene. 1999;239:15–27. [PubMed]
18. Edwards D, Murray JA, Smith AG. Plant Physiol. 1998;117:1015–1022. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
19. Gusmaroli G, Tonelli C, Mantovani R. Gene. 2002;283:41–48. [PubMed]
20. Gusmaroli G, Tonelli C, Mantovani R. Gene. 2001;264:173–185. [PubMed]
21. Haake V, Cook D, Riechmann JL, Pineda O, Thomashow MF, Zhang JZ. Plant Physiol. 2002;130:639–648. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
22. Miyoshi K, Ito Y, Serizawa A, Kurata N. Plant J. 2003;36:532–540. [PubMed]
23. Ben-Naim O, Eshed R, Parnis A, Teper-Bamnolker P, Shalit A, Coupland G, Samach A, Lifschitz E. Plant J. 2006;46:463–476.
24. Wenkel S, Turcka F, Singer K, Gissot L, Le Gourrierec J, Samach A, Coupland G. Plant Cell. 2006;18:2971–2984. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
25. Lee H, Fischer RL, Goldberg RB, Harada JJ. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2003;100:2152–2156. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
26. Kwong RW, Bui AQ, Lee H, Kwong LW, Fischer RL, Goldberg RB, Harada JJ. Plant Cell. 2003;15:5–18. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
27. Clough SJ, Bent AF. Plant J. 1998;16:735–743. [PubMed]
28. Bechtold N, Jolivet S, Voisin R, Pelletier G. Transgenic Res. 2003;12:509–517. [PubMed]
29. Armstrong CL, Rout JR. 2001 WO Patent 01/09302.

Articles from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America are provided here courtesy of National Academy of Sciences
PubReader format: click here to try


Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...


Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...