Aflatoxins are carcinogens produced mainly by Aspergillus flavus during infection of susceptible crops such as maize (Zea mays). Previously, embryo proteins from maize genotypes resistant or susceptible to A. flavus infection were compared using proteomics, and resistance-associated proteins were identified. Here, we report the comparison of maize endosperm proteins from five resistant and five susceptible genotypes, and the identification of additional resistance-associated proteins using the same approach. Ten protein spots were upregulated twofold or higher in resistant lines compared with susceptible ones. Peptide sequencing of these proteins identified them as a globulin-2 protein, late embryogenesis abundant proteins (LEA3 and LEA14), a stress-related peroxiredoxin antioxidant (PER1), heat-shock proteins (HSP17.2), a cold-regulated protein (COR), and an antifungal trypsin-inhibitor protein (TI). The gene encoding one such upregulated protein, PER1, was cloned and overexpressed in Escherichia coli. The overexpressed PER1 protein demonstrated peroxidase activity in vitro. In addition, per1 expression was significantly higher in the resistant genotype Mp420 than in the susceptible genotype B73 during the late stage of kernel development, and was significantly induced upon A. flavus infection, suggesting that it may play an important role in enhancing kernel stress tolerance and aflatoxin resistance. The significance of other identified proteins to host resistance and stress tolerance also is discussed.
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