Impact of low-temperature stress on general phenylpropanoid and anthocyanin pathways: Enhancement of transcript abundance and anthocyanin pigmentation in maize seedlings

Author(s): Christie PJ, Alfenito MR, Walbot V


Changes in anthocyanin content and transcript abundance for genes whose products function in general phenylpropanoid metabolism and the anthocyanin pathway were monitored in maize (Zea mays L.) seedlings during short-term, low-temperature treatment. Anthocyanin and mRNA abundance in sheaths of maize seedlings increased with the severity and duration of cold. Anthocyanin accumulation was found in all tested lines that were genotypically capable of any anthocyanin production. Within 24 h of transferring 7-d maize (B37N) seedlings to 10° C, phenylalanine ammonia-lyase (Pal) (EC and chalcone synthase (C2) (EC transcript levels increased at least 8- and 50-fold, respectively, and 4-coumarate:CoA ligase (4Cl) (EC and chalcone isomerase (Chi) (EC transcripts increased at least 3-fold over levels in unstressed plants. Time-course studies showed thatPal (EC andC2-transcript levels remained relatively constant for the first 12 h of cold stress, dramatically increased over the next 12 h, and declined to pretreatment levels within 2 d of returning coldstressed seedlings to ambient (25° C) temperature. Transcripts4Cl (EC andChi (EC increased in abundance within 6 h of cold stress, exhibited no further increase over the next 36 h, and declined to pretreatment levels upon returning seedlings to 25° C. Transcripts homologous to two regulatory (R, C1) and three structural (A1,A2, andBz2) anthocyanin genes increased at least 7- to 10-fold during cold treatment, exhibiting similar kinetics of accumulation as forPal (EC andC2 transcripts. Transcripts encoded byBz1, the anthocyanin structural gene for UDP:glucose-flavonol glucosyltransferase (EC, were relatively abundant in control tissues and exhibited only a transient increase during the cold period. Our studies suggest that the genes of the anthocyanin biosynthetic pathway can be consideredcor (Cold-Regulation) genes, and because this pathway is well defined, it is an excellent subject for characterizing plant molecular responses to low temperatures.

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