Robust non-syntenic gene expression patterns in diverse maize hybrids during root development

J Exp Bot. 2020 Jan 23;71(3):865-876. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erz452.


Distantly related maize (Zea mays L.) inbred lines exhibit an exceptional degree of structural genomic diversity, which is probably unique among plants. This study systematically investigated the developmental and genotype-dependent regulation of the primary root transcriptomes of a genetically diverse panel of maize F1-hybrids and their parental inbred lines. While we observed substantial transcriptomic changes during primary root development, we demonstrated that hybrid-associated gene expression patterns, including differential, non-additive, and allele-specific transcriptome profiles, are particularly robust to these developmental fluctuations. For instance, differentially expressed genes with preferential expression in hybrids were highly conserved during development in comparison to their parental counterparts. Similarly, in hybrids a major proportion of non-additively expressed genes with expression levels between the parental values were particularly conserved during development. Importantly, in these expression patterns non-syntenic genes that evolved after the separation of the maize and sorghum lineages were systemically enriched. Furthermore, non-syntenic genes were substantially linked to the conservation of all surveyed gene expression patterns during primary root development. Among all F1-hybrids, between ~40% of the non-syntenic genes with unexpected allelic expression ratios and ~60% of the non-syntenic differentially and non-additively expressed genes were conserved and therefore robust to developmental changes. Hence, the enrichment of non-syntenic genes during primary root development might be involved in the developmental adaptation of maize roots and thus the superior performance of hybrids.

Keywords: Allele-specific; gene expression; heterosis; hybrid; maize; non-additivity; non-syntenic; primary root development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Hybridization, Genetic*
  • Plant Roots / growth & development*
  • Zea mays / genetics
  • Zea mays / growth & development
  • Zea mays / metabolism*