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Analysis of gene expression patterns and levels in maize hybrids and their parents

Author(s): H.S. Nie, S.P. Li, X.H. Shan, Y. Wu, S.Z. Su, H.K. Liu, J.Y. Han and Y.P. Yuan

Heterosis has greatly contributed to conventional plant breeding and is widely used to increase crop plant productivity. However, although some studies have explored the mechanisms of heterosis at the genomic and transcriptome level, these mechanisms still remain unclear. The growth and development of maize seedlings and immature embryos have an important impact on subsequent production. This study investigated differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between parents and reciprocal hybrids in the seedling leaves, roots, and immature embryo 15 days after pollination using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP)-based transcript profiling (cDNA-AFLP). We isolated 180, 170, and 108 genes from the leaves, roots, and immature embryos, respectively, that were differentially expressed between hybrids and parents. Sequencing and functional analysis revealed that 107 transcript-derived fragments in the roots and leaves and 90 in the immature embryos were involved in known functions, whereas many DEGs had roles in plant growth and development, photosynthesis, signal transduction, and seed germination. Quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction analysis of relative expression levels between reciprocal hybrids and both parental genotypes of selected genes produced results that were consistent with cDNA-AFLP. We validated the expression patterns of 15 selected genes related to heterosis formation and revealed that most showed non-additive expression in one or both hybrids, including dominant, underdominant, and overdominant expression. This indicates that gene-regulatory interactions among parental alleles play an important role in heterosis during the early developmental stages of maize.