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Phytopathology. 2004 Sep;94(9):938-45. doi: 10.1094/PHYTO.2004.94.9.938.

Identification of a maize kernel stress-related protein and its effect on aflatoxin accumulation.


ABSTRACT Aflatoxins are carcinogens produced mainly by Aspergillus flavus during infection of susceptible crops such as maize. Through proteomic comparisons of maize kernel embryo proteins of resistant and susceptible genotypes, several protein spots previously were found to be unique or upregulated in resistant embryos. In the present study, one of these protein spots was sequenced and identified as glyoxalase I (GLX-I; EC The full-length cDNA of the glyoxalase I gene (glx-I) was cloned. GLX-I constitutive activity was found to be significantly higher in the resistant maize lines compared with susceptible ones. After kernel infection by A. flavus, GLX-I activity remained lower in susceptible genotypes than in resistant genotypes. However, fungal infection significantly increased methylglyoxal (MG) levels in two of three susceptible genotypes. Further, MG was found to induce aflatoxin production in A. flavus culture at a concentration as low as 5.0 muM. The mode of action of MG may be to stimulate the expression of aflR, an aflatoxin biosynthesis regulatory gene, which was found to be significantly upregulated in the presence of 5 to 20 muM MG. These data suggest that GLX-I may play an important role in controlling MG levels inside kernels, thereby contributing to the lower levels of aflatoxins found in resistant maize genotypes.

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