Male Sterility in Maize after Transient Heat Stress during the Tetrad Stage of Pollen Development

Kevin Begcy, Tetyana Nosenko, Liang-Zi Zhou, Lena Fragner, Wolfram Weckwerth, Thomas Dresselhaus

Shifts in the duration and intensity of ambient temperature impair plant development and reproduction, particularly male gametogenesis. Stress exposure causes meiotic defects or premature spore abortion in male reproductive organs, leading to male sterility. However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying stress and male sterility. To elucidate these mechanisms, we imposed a moderate transient heat stress on maize (Zea mays) plants at the tetrad stage of pollen development. After completion of pollen development at optimal conditions, stress responses were assessed in mature pollen. Transient heat stress resulted in reduced starch content, decreased enzymatic activity, and reduced pollen germination, resulting in sterility. A transcriptomic comparison pointed toward misregulation of starch, lipid, and energy biosynthesis-related genes. Metabolomic studies showed an increase of Suc and its monosaccharide components, as well as a reduction in pyruvate. Lipidomic analysis showed increased levels of unsaturated fatty acids and decreased levels of saturated fatty acids. In contrast, the majority of genes involved in developmental processes such as those required for auxin and unfolded protein responses, signaling, and cell wall biosynthesis remained unaltered. It is noteworthy that changes in the regulation of transcriptional and metabolic pathway genes, as well as heat stress proteins, remained altered even though pollen could recover during further development at optimal conditions. In conclusion, our findings demonstrate that a short moderate heat stress during the highly susceptible tetrad stage strongly affects basic metabolic pathways and thus generates germination-defective pollen, ultimately leading to severe yield losses in maize.

Functional and Evolutionary Ecology, Large-Instrument Facility for Mass Spectrometry in Life Sciences
External organisation(s)
Universität Regensburg (UR), University of Florida, Gainesville, Helmholtz-Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Plant Physiology
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106031 Plant physiology, 106057 Metabolomics, 106030 Plant ecology, 106002 Biochemistry
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
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