Argonaute (AGO) proteins play a key role in regulation of gene expression through small RNA-directed RNA cleavage and translational repression, and are essential for multiple developmental processes. In the present study, 17 AGO genes of maize (Zea mays L., ZmAGOs) were identified using a Hidden Markov Model and validated by rapid amplification of cDNA ends assay. Subsequently, quantitative PCR revealed that expressions of these genes were higher in reproductive than in vegetative tissues. AGOs presented five temporal and spatial expression patterns, which were likely modulated by DNA methylation, 5'-untranslated exons and microRNA-mediated feedback loops. Intriguingly, ZmAGO18b was highly expressed in tassels during meiosis. Furthermore, in situ hybridization and immunofluorescence showed that ZmAGO18b was enriched in the tapetum and germ cells in meiotic anthers. We hypothesized that ZmAGOs are highly expressed in reproductive tissues, and that ZmAGO18b is a tapetum and germ cell-specific member of the AGO family in maize.
Keywords: Anther; Argonaute; gene expression; immunochemistry; meiosis.
© 2014 Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences.