Salinity mainly reduces shoot growth by the inhibition of cell division and elongation. Expansins loosen plant cell walls. Moreover, the expression of some isoforms is clearly correlated with growth. Effects of salinity on β-expansin transcripts protein abundance were recently reported for different crop species. This study provides a broad analysis of the impact of an 8-day 100mM NaCl stress treatment on the mRNA expression of different maize (Zea mays L.) β-Expansin isoforms using real-time quantitative RT-PCR. The composite β-expansin protein expression was analyzed by western blotting using an anti-peptide antibody raised against a conserved 15-amino-acid region shared by vegetatively expressed β-expansin isoforms. For the first time, changes in β-expansin transcript and protein abundance have been analyzed together with the salinity-induced inhibition of shoot growth. A salt-resistant and a salt-sensitive cultivar were compared in order to elucidate physiological changes. Genotypic differences in the relative concentration of six β-expansin transcripts together with differences in the abundance β-expansin protein are shown in response NaCl stress. In salt-sensitive Lector, reduced β-expansin protein expression was found to correlate positively with reduced shoot growth under stress. A down-regulation of ZmExpB2, ZmExpB6, and ZmExpB8 transcripts possibly contribute to this decrease in protein abundance. In contrast, the maintenance of shoot growth in salt-resistant SR03 might be related to an unaffected abundance of growth-mediating β-expansin proteins in the shoot. Our data suggest that the up-regulation of ZmExpB2, ZmExpB6, and ZmExpB8 may sustain the stable expression of β-expansin protein under conditions of salt stress.
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