Auxin is a key regulator of plant development and its differential distribution in plant tissues, established by a polar cell to cell transport, can trigger a wide range of developmental processes. A few members of the two families of auxin efflux transport proteins, PIN-formed (PIN) and P-glycoprotein (ABCB/PGP), have so far been characterized in maize. Nine new Zea mays auxin efflux carriers PIN family members and two maize PIN-like genes have now been identified. Four members of PIN1 (named ZmPIN1a-d) cluster, one gene homologous to AtPIN2 (ZmPIN2), three orthologs of PIN5 (ZmPIN5a-c), one gene paired with AtPIN8 (ZmPIN8), and three monocot-specific PINs (ZmPIN9, ZmPIN10a, and ZmPIN10b) were cloned and the phylogenetic relationships between early-land plants, monocots, and eudicots PIN proteins investigated, including the new maize PIN proteins. Tissue-specific expression patterns of the 12 maize PIN genes, 2 PIN-like genes and ZmABCB1, an ABCB auxin efflux carrier, were analyzed together with protein localization and auxin accumulation patterns in normal conditions and in response to drug applications. ZmPIN gene transcripts have overlapping expression domains in the root apex, during male and female inflorescence differentiation and kernel development. However, some PIN family members have specific tissue localization: ZmPIN1d transcript marks the L1 layer of the shoot apical meristem and inflorescence meristem during the flowering transition and the monocot-specific ZmPIN9 is expressed in the root endodermis and pericycle. The phylogenetic and gene structure analyses together with the expression pattern of the ZmPIN gene family indicate that subfunctionalization of some maize PINs can be associated to the differentiation and development of monocot-specific organs and tissues and might have occurred after the divergence between dicots and monocots.
Keywords: PIN-formed; Zea mays; auxin efflux carriers; inflorescences; kernel development; monocots; polar auxin transport.