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Plant Physiol. 2005 Mar;137(3):949-60. Epub 2005 Feb 22.

Water deficits affect caffeate O-methyltransferase, lignification, and related enzymes in maize leaves. A proteomic investigation.

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  • 1Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Université Paris XI, Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon, la Ferme du Moulon, 91190 Gif-sur-Yvette, France.


Drought is a major abiotic stress affecting all levels of plant organization and, in particular, leaf elongation. Several experiments were designed to study the effect of water deficits on maize (Zea mays) leaves at the protein level by taking into account the reduction of leaf elongation. Proteomic analyses of growing maize leaves allowed us to show that two isoforms of caffeic acid/5-hydroxyferulic 3-O-methyltransferase (COMT) accumulated mostly at 10 to 20 cm from the leaf point of insertion and that drought resulted in a shift of this region of maximal accumulation toward basal regions. We showed that this shift was due to the combined effect of reductions in growth and in total amounts of COMT. Several other enzymes involved in lignin and/or flavonoid synthesis (caffeoyl-CoA 3-O-methyltransferase, phenylalanine ammonia lyase, methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, and several isoforms of S-adenosyl-l-methionine synthase and methionine synthase) were highly correlated with COMT, reinforcing the hypothesis that the zone of maximal accumulation corresponds to a zone of lignification. According to the accumulation profiles of the enzymes, lignification increases in leaves of control plants when their growth decreases before reaching their final size. Lignin levels analyzed by thioacidolysis confirmed that lignin is synthesized in the region where we observed the maximal accumulation of these enzymes. Consistent with the levels of these enzymes, we found that the lignin level was lower in leaves of plants subjected to water deficit than in those of well-watered plants.

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