Temporal patterns of gene expression in developing maize endosperm identified through transcriptome sequencing


Li, G., Wang, D., Yang, R., Logan, K., Chen, H., Zhang, S., Skaggs, M.I., Lloyd, A., Burnett, W.J., Laurie, J.D., Hunter, B.G., Dannenhoffer, J.M., Larkins, B.A., Drews, G.N., Wang, X., Yadegari, R. (2014). Temporal patterns of gene expression in developing maize endosperm identified through transcriptome sequencing, 111(21), 7582-7587. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1406383111

Plain language summary

In flowering plants, double fertilization gives rise to an embryo and the endosperm, an absorptive storage structure that supports embryogenesis and seedling germination. In cereal grains, endosperm comprises a large proportion of the mature seed, contains large amounts of carbohydrates and proteins, and is an important source of food, feed, and industrial raw materials. This study provides a comprehensive profile of the genes expressed in the early developing endosperm in maize. We also show how a series of temporal programs of gene expression correlate with progressive functional and cellular specializations.


Endosperm is a filial structure resulting from a second fertilization event in angiosperms. As an absorptive storage organ, endosperm plays an essential role in support of embryo development and seedling germination. The accumulation of carbohydrate and protein storage products in cereal endosperm provides humanity with a major portion of its food, feed, and renewable resources. Little is known regarding the regulatory gene networks controlling endosperm proliferation and differentiation. As a first step toward understanding these networks, we profiled all mRNAs in the maize kernel and endosperm at eight successive stages during the first 12 d after pollination. Analysis of these gene sets identified temporal programs of gene expression, including hundreds of transcription-factor genes. We found a close correlation of the sequentially expressed gene sets with distinct cellular and metabolic programs in distinct compartments of the developing endosperm. The results constitute a preliminary atlas of spatiotemporal patterns of endosperm gene expression in support of future efforts for understanding the underlying mechanisms that control seed yield and quality.

Publication date


Author profiles