Dissecting the metabolic reprogramming of maize root under nitrogen-deficient stress conditions

J Exp Bot. 2022 Jan 5;73(1):275-291. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erab435.


The growth and development of maize (Zea mays L.) largely depends on its nutrient uptake through the root. Hence, studying its growth, response, and associated metabolic reprogramming to stress conditions is becoming an important research direction. A genome-scale metabolic model (GSM) for the maize root was developed to study its metabolic reprogramming under nitrogen stress conditions. The model was reconstructed based on the available information from KEGG, UniProt, and MaizeCyc. Transcriptomics data derived from the roots of hydroponically grown maize plants were used to incorporate regulatory constraints in the model and simulate nitrogen-non-limiting (N+) and nitrogen-deficient (N-) condition. Model-predicted flux-sum variability analysis achieved 70% accuracy compared with the experimental change of metabolite levels. In addition to predicting important metabolic reprogramming in central carbon, fatty acid, amino acid, and other secondary metabolism, maize root GSM predicted several metabolites (l-methionine, l-asparagine, l-lysine, cholesterol, and l-pipecolate) playing a regulatory role in the root biomass growth. Furthermore, this study revealed eight phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylglycerol metabolites which, even though not coupled with biomass production, played a key role in the increased biomass production under N-deficient conditions. Overall, the omics-integrated GSM provides a promising tool to facilitate stress condition analysis for maize root and engineer better stress-tolerant maize genotypes.

Keywords: Abiotic stress; genome-scale metabolic modeling; maize root; metabolomics; nitrogen-deficient stress; transcriptomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids
  • Biomass
  • Nitrogen*
  • Plant Roots
  • Zea mays* / genetics


  • Amino Acids
  • Nitrogen