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Identification of a Maize Kernel Stress-Related Protein and Its Effect on Aflatoxin Accumulation

September 2004 , Volume 94 , Number  9
Pages  938 - 945

Z.-Y. Chen , R. L. Brown , K. E. Damann , and T. E. Cleveland

First and third authors: Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Baton Rouge 70803; and second and fourth authors: Southern Regional Research Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, New Orleans, LA 70179

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Accepted for publication 14 April 2004.

Aflatoxins are carcinogens produced mainly by Aspergillus flavus during infection of susceptible crops such as maize. Through proteomic comparisons of maize kernel embryo proteins of resistant and susceptible genotypes, several protein spots previously were found to be unique or upregulated in resistant embryos. In the present study, one of these protein spots was sequenced and identified as glyoxalase I (GLX-I; EC The full-length cDNA of the glyoxalase I gene (glx-I) was cloned. GLX-I constitutive activity was found to be significantly higher in the resistant maize lines compared with susceptible ones. After kernel infection by A. flavus, GLX-I activity remained lower in susceptible genotypes than in resistant genotypes. However, fungal infection significantly increased methylglyoxal (MG) levels in two of three susceptible genotypes. Further, MG was found to induce aflatoxin production in A. flavus culture at a concentration as low as 5.0 μM. The mode of action of MG may be to stimulate the expression of aflR, an aflatoxin biosynthesis regulatory gene, which was found to be significantly upregulated in the presence of 5 to 20 μM MG. These data suggest that GLX-I may play an important role in controlling MG levels inside kernels, thereby contributing to the lower levels of aflatoxins found in resistant maize genotypes.

Additional keywords: host resistance, real-time PCR, S-d-lactoylglutathione methylglyoxal lyase.

The American Phytopathological Society, 2004