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Plant Physiol. 2003 Dec;133(4):1578-91. Epub 2003 Nov 26.

Photomorphogenic responses in maize seedling development.

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Boyce Thompson Institute, Cornell University, Tower Road, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


As an emerging maize (Zea mays) seedling senses light, there is a decrease in the rate of mesocotyl elongation, an induction of root growth, and an expansion of leaves. In leaf tissues, mesophyll and bundle sheath cell fate is determined, and the proplastids of each differentiate into the dimorphic chloroplasts typical of each cell type. Although it has been inferred from recent studies in several model plant species that multiple photoreceptor systems mediate this process, surprisingly little is known of light signal transduction in maize. Here, we examine two photomorphogenic responses in maize: inhibition of mesocotyl elongation and C4 photosynthetic differentiation. Through an extensive survey of white, red, far-red, and blue light responses among a diverse collection of germplasm, including a phytochrome-deficient mutant elm1, we show that light response is a highly variable trait in maize. Although all inbreds examined appear to have a functional phytochrome signal transduction pathway, several lines showed reduced sensitivity to blue light. A significant correlation was observed between light response and subpopulation, suggesting that light responsiveness may be a target of artificial selection. An examination of C4 gene expression patterns under various light regimes in the standard W22 inbred and elm1 indicate that cell-specific patterns of C4 gene expression are maintained in fully differentiated tissues independent of light quality. To our knowledge, these findings represent the first comprehensive survey of light response in maize and are discussed in relation to maize breeding strategies.

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