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Plant Mol Biol. 2003 Jul;52(4):745-59.

Fungus- and wound-induced accumulation of mRNA containing a class II chitinase of the pathogenesis-related protein 4 (PR-4) family of maize.

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Departamento de Genética Molecular, Instituto de Biología Molecular de Barcelona. Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo, CSIC, Jordi Girona 18, 08034 Barcelona, Spain.


Pathogenesis-related (PR) proteins are plant proteins that are induced in response to pathogen attack. PR proteins are grouped into independent families based on their sequences and properties. The PR-4 family comprises class I and class II chitinases. We have isolated a full-length cDNA encoding a chitinase from maize which shares a high degree of nucleotide and amino acid sequence homology with the class II chitinases of the PR-4 family of PR proteins. Our results indicate that fungal infection, and treatment either with fungal elicitors or with moniliformin, a mycotoxin produced by the fungus Fusarium moniliforme, increase the level of ZmPR4 mRNA. In situ mRNA hybridization analysis in sections obtained from fungus-infected germinating embryos revealed that ZmPR4 mRNA accumulation occurs in those cell types that first establish contact with the pathogen. ZmPR4 mRNA accumulation is also stimulated by treatment with silver nitrate whereas the application of the hormones gibberellic acid or acetylsalicylic acid has no effect. Wounding, or treatment with abscisic acid or methyl jasmonate, results in accumulation of ZmPR4 mRNA in maize leaves. Furthermore, the ZmPR4 protein was expressed in Escherichia coli, purified and used to obtain polyclonal antibodies that specifically recognized ZmPR4 in protein extracts from fungus-infected embryos. Accumulation of ZmPR4 mRNA in fungus-infected maize tissues was accompanied by a significant accumulation of the corresponding protein. The possible implications of these findings as part of the general defence response of maize plants against pathogens are discussed.

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