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J Exp Bot. 2008;59(9):2479-97. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ern115. Epub 2008 May 23.

Transcript profiling of Zea mays roots reveals gene responses to phosphate deficiency at the plant- and species-specific levels.

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Departamento de Ingeniería Genética de Plantas, Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados, Campus Guanajuato, PO BOX 629, Irapuato Guanajuato, México 36821.


Maize (Zea mays) is the most widely cultivated crop around the world; however, it is commonly affected by phosphate (Pi) deficiency in many regions, particularly in acid and alkaline soils of developing countries. To cope with Pi deficiency, plants have evolved a large number of developmental and biochemical adaptations; however, for maize, the underlying molecular basis of these responses is still unknown. In this work, the transcriptional response of maize roots to Pi starvation at 1, 3, 6, and 10 d after the onset of Pi deprivation was assessed. The investigation revealed a total of 1179 Pi-responsive genes, of which 820 and 363 genes were found to be either up- or down-regulated, respectively, by 2-fold or more. Pi-responsive genes were found to be involved in various metabolic, signal transduction, and developmental gene networks. A large set of transcription factors, which may be potential targets for crop breeding, was identified. In addition, gene expression profiles and changes in specific metabolites were also correlated. The results show that several dicotyledonous plant responses to Pi starvation are conserved in maize, but that some genetic responses appear to be more specific and that Pi deficiency leads to a shift in the recycling of internal Pi in maize roots. Ultimately, this work provides a more comprehensive view of Pi-responses in a model for economically important cereals and also sets a framework to produce Pi-specific maize microarrays to study the changes in global gene expression between Pi-efficient and Pi-inefficient maize genotypes.

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