Department of Plant Pathology and Program in Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, U.S.A.
Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades play a crucial role in plant growth and development as well as biotic and abiotic stress responses. In Arabidopsis, 20 MAPKs have been identified and divided into four major groups. In rice, a monocot model and economically important cereal crop, only five MAPKs were characterized, including three related to the host defense response. In this study, we have identified 17 members of the rice MAPK gene (OsMPK) family through an in silico search of rice genome databases. Based on the phylogenetic analysis and pairwise comparison of Arabidopsis and rice MAPKs, we propose that MAPKs can be divided into six groups. Interestingly, the rice genome contains many more MAPKs with the TDY phosphorylation site (11 members) than with the TEY motif (six members). In contrast, the Arabidopsis genome contains more MAPKs with the TEY motif (12 members) than with the TDY motif (eight members). Upon inoculation with the blast fungus (Magnaporthe grisea), nine of 17 OsMPK genes were found to be induced at the mRNA level during either early, late, or both stages of infection. Four of the M. grisea-induced OsMPK genes were associated with host-cell death in the lesion-mimic rice mutant, and eight of them were differentially induced in response to defense signal molecules such as jasmonic acid, salicylic acid, abscisic acid, and ethylene. The genome-wide expression analysis suggests that about half of the rice MAPK genes are associated with pathogen infection and host defense response.