Plant Cell Reports

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 135–148 | Cite as

Maize WRKY114 gene negatively regulates salt-stress tolerance in transgenic rice

  • Chen Bo
  • Haowei Chen
  • Guowei Luo
  • Wei Li
  • Xingen Zhang
  • Qing Ma
  • Beijiu Cheng
  • Ronghao CaiEmail author
Original Article


Key message

Overexpression in rice of the isolated salt-responsive WRKY114 gene from maize resulted in decreases in both salt-stress tolerance and abscisic acid sensitivity by regulating stress- and abscisic acid-related gene expression.


WRKYs are an important family of transcription factors that widely participate in plant development, defense regulation and stress responses. In this research, WRKY114 encoding a WRKY transcription factor was cloned from maize (Zea mays L.). ZmWRKY114 expression was down-regulated by salt stress but up-regulated by abscisic acid (ABA) treatments. ZmWRKY114 is a nuclear protein with no transcriptional activation ability in yeast. A yeast one-hybrid experiment confirmed that ZmWRKY114 possesses an ability to specifically bind to W-boxes. The heterologous overexpression of ZmWRKY114 in rice enhanced the salt-stress sensitivity as indicated by the transgenic plants having reduced heights, root lengths and survival rates under salt-stress conditions. In addition, transgenic plants also retained lower proline contents, but greater malondialdehyde contents and relative electrical leakage levels. Additionally, ZmWRKY114-overexpressing plants showed less sensitivity to ABA during the early seedling growth stage. Further analyses indicated that transgenic rice accumulated higher levels of ABA than wild-type plants under salt-stress conditions. Transcriptome and quantitative real-time PCR analyses indicated that a few regulatory genes, which play vital roles in controlling plant stress responses and/or the ABA signaling pathway, were affected by ZmWRKY114 overexpression when rice was treated with NaCl. Thus, ZmWRKY114 may function as a negative factor that participates in salt-stress responses through an ABA-mediated pathway.


ABA Maize RNA-seq Salt stress WRKY transcription factor ZmWRKY114 



Abscisic acid


Differentially expressed gene


Gene ontology




Quantitative real-time


Relative electrolytic leakage


Transcription factor



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31801365), the Major Science and Technology Projects of Anhui Province (18030701180) and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (1808085QC88).

Author contribution statement

QM, BC and RC conceived and designed the research; CB, HC, GL, WL and XZ performed the experiments; CB and RC wrote the manuscript. All the authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

299_2019_2481_MOESM1_ESM.tif (7.1 mb)
Fig. S1 Reduced salt tolerance in the heading stage period of ZmWRKY114 transgenic rice plants (TIFF 7221 kb)
299_2019_2481_MOESM2_ESM.tif (9.9 mb)
Fig. S2 Gene ontology (GO) classification of the unigenes from three comparisons of WT, OE6 and OE8 between normal and salt-stress conditions. a Enriched GO terms in WB vs WA. b Enriched GO terms in OB6 vs OA6. c Enriched GO terms in OB8 vs OA8. WB and WA represent WT plants before and after exposure to salt stress. OB6 and OA6 represent transgenic line OE6 before and after exposure to salt stress. OB8 and OA8 represent transgenic line OE8 before and after exposure to salt stress (TIFF 10146 kb)
299_2019_2481_MOESM3_ESM.tif (10.2 mb)
Fig. S3 Expression levels of stress- and ABA-related genes in WT and the two transgenic rice lines in response to salt-stress conditions. The induction levels of the genes (EBP-89, Rab16A, SKC1, PYL3, PYL9, APx8, HsfC1b, P5CR, TPP1, NCED3 and NCED5) were measured by qRT-PCR. Actin was used as the internal control. Data represent means ± SDs of three replicates (TIFF 10481 kb)
299_2019_2481_MOESM4_ESM.doc (36 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (DOC 36 kb)
299_2019_2481_MOESM5_ESM.xlsx (1011 kb)
Supplementary material 5 (XLSX 1010 kb)
299_2019_2481_MOESM6_ESM.xlsx (675 kb)
Supplementary material 6 (XLSX 675 kb)
299_2019_2481_MOESM7_ESM.xlsx (886 kb)
Supplementary material 7 (XLSX 886 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chen Bo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Haowei Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Guowei Luo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wei Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xingen Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Qing Ma
    • 1
    • 3
  • Beijiu Cheng
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ronghao Cai
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.National Engineering Laboratory of Crop Stress Resistance Breeding, School of Life SciencesAnhui Agricultural UniversityHefeiChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Crop Biology of Anhui Province, School of Life SciencesAnhui Agricultural UniversityHefeiChina
  3. 3.School of Life Sciences, Engineering Research Center for Maize of Anhui ProvinceAnhui Agricultural UniversityHefeiChina

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