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Plant Physiol. 1991 Sep;97(1):154-64.

Influence of water deficit on maize endosperm development : enzyme activities and RNA transcripts of starch and zein synthesis, abscisic Acid, and cell division.

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  • 1Department of Soil, Crop, and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853.

Abstract

In maize (Zea mays L.), drought during the post-pollination stage decreases kernel growth and often leads to grain yield losses. Kernels in the apical region of the ear are more severely affected than basally positioned kernels. We hypothesized that water deficit during early endosperm development might inhibit kernel growth by decreasing endosperm cell division, and that this response might be mediated by changes in endosperm abscisic acid (ABA) levels. Greenhouse-grown maize, cultivar Pioneer 3925, was subjected to water limitation from 1 to 15 days after pollination (DAP), spanning the period of endosperm cell division and induction of storage product accumulation. Water deficit decreased the number of endosperm nuclei during the treatment period; the most substantial effect was in the apical region of ears. Correspondingly, endosperm fresh weight, starch accumulation and dry mass at maturity were decreased by water limitation. Abscisic acid concentrations in endosperm were quantified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Water deficit increased ABA concentration in apical-region endosperm by four-fold compared to controls. ABA concentrations were also increased in middle and basal regions of the ear, but to a lesser extent. Two key enzymes in the starch synthesis pathway, sucrose synthase and granule-bound ADP-glucose starch synthase, and zein, the major storage protein in maize endosperm, were studied as markers of storage product synthesis. Water deficit did not affect sucrose synthase enzyme activity or RNA transcript abundance relative to total RNA. However, ADP-glucose starch synthase activity and RNA transcript abundance decreased slightly in apical-region endosperm of water-limited plants by 15 DAP, compared with well-watered controls. In contrast to starch, there was no treatment effect on the accumulation of zein, evaluated at either the polypeptide or RNA level. We conclude that under the conditions tested, the establishment of starch and zein synthetic potential in endosperm was only slightly affected by plant water deficit during the early phase of kernel growth, and that capacity for growth and starch accumulation was affected by the extent to which cell division was inhibited. Based on correlative changes in ABA concentration and cell division we suggest that ABA may play a role in inhibiting endosperm cell division during water limitation.

PMID:
16668363
[PubMed]
PMCID:
PMC1080977
Free PMC Article
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