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Plant Physiol. 2004 Apr;134(4):1662-71. Epub 2004 Mar 26.

Intercellular distribution of glutathione synthesis in maize leaves and its response to short-term chilling.

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Crop Performance and Improvement Division, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Herts AL5 2JQ, United Kingdom.


To investigate the intercellular control of glutathione synthesis and its influence on leaf redox state in response to short-term chilling, genes encoding gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase (gamma-ECS) and glutathione synthetase (GSH-S) were cloned from maize (Zea mays) and specific antibodies produced. These tools were used to provide the first information on the intercellular distribution of gamma-ECS and GSH-S transcript and protein in maize leaves, in both optimal conditions and chilling stress. A 2-d exposure to low growth temperatures (chill) had no effect on leaf phenotype, whereas return to optimal temperatures (recovery) caused extensive leaf bleaching. The chill did not affect total leaf GSH-S transcripts but strongly induced gamma-ECS mRNA, an effect reversed during recovery. The chilling-induced increase in gamma-ECS transcripts was not accompanied by enhanced total leaf gamma-ECS protein or extractable activity. In situ hybridization and immunolocalization of leaf sections showed that gamma-ECS and GSH-S transcripts and proteins were found in both the bundle sheath (BS) and the mesophyll cells under optimal conditions. Chilling increased gamma-ECS transcript and protein in the BS but not in the mesophyll cells. Increased BS gamma-ECS was correlated with a 2-fold increase in both leaf Cys and gamma-glutamylcysteine, but leaf total glutathione significantly increased only in the recovery period, when the reduced glutathione to glutathione disulfide ratio decreased 3-fold. Thus, while there was a specific increase in the potential contribution of the BS cells to glutathione synthesis during chilling, it did not result in enhanced leaf glutathione accumulation at low temperatures. Return to optimal temperatures allowed glutathione to increase, particularly glutathione disulfide, and this was associated with leaf chlorosis.

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