Genes & Genomics

, Volume 41, Issue 7, pp 781–801 | Cite as

Comparative transcriptome analysis of salt-sensitive and salt-tolerant maize reveals potential mechanisms to enhance salt resistance

  • Mingquan Wang
  • Yufeng Wang
  • Yifei Zhang
  • Chunxia Li
  • Shichen Gong
  • Shuqin Yan
  • Guoliang Li
  • Guanghui Hu
  • Honglei Ren
  • Jianfei Yang
  • Tao Yu
  • Kejun YangEmail author
Research Article



Salt stress is a devastating environmental stress that causes plant growth inhibition and yield reduction.


The identification of salt-tolerant genes brings hope for the generation of salinity-tolerant crop plants through molecular breeding.


In this study, one salt-sensitive and one salt-tolerant maize inbred line were screened from 242 maize inbred lines. Reactive oxygen species (ROS)-related enzyme activities were detected and salt-responsive comparative transcriptome analysis was performed for control and 220 mM NaCl treated maize leaves.


Salt-tolerant maize inbred line (L87) showed higher ROS-related enzyme (SOD, POD, APX and CAT) activities and accumulated relatively lower levels of ROS under salt stress. Of the total DEGs, 1856 upregulated DEGs were specific to L87, including stress tolerance-related members of the 70kDa family of heat shock proteins (Hsp70s) and aquaporins. The DEGs involved in the abscisic acid (ABA), ethylene, jasmonic acid (JA) and salicylic acid (SA) signal transduction pathways may determine the difference in salt tolerance between the two varieties, especially one central component SnRK2, that positively regulates ABA signaling and was only upregulated in L87. Analysis of DEGs related to ROS scavenging showed that some peroxidase (POD), glutathione S-transferase (GST), catalase (CAT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) genes specific to L87 probably enhanced its salt tolerance. The analysis of differentially expressed transcription factors (TFs) suggested that WRKY TFs could contribute to the difference in salt tolerance between the two maize lines.


Compared with Salt-sensitive maize inbred line (L29), L87 exhibits specific regulatory mechanisms related to salt tolerance, including plant hormone interactions, ROS scavenging and the regulation of TFs. Our study identifies new candidate genes that may regulate maize tolerance to salt stress and provides useful information for breeding maize with high salt resistance.


Maize Salt stress RNA-Seq Differentially expressed genes Hormone signaling pathways Transcription factors 



The materials were collected from the Maize Research Institute of Heilongjiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences. This work was partially supported by Grants from the National Science and Technology Support Plan of China (2013BAD07B01); the Innovation Project of Heilongjiang Academy of Agricultural Science (2014ZD003); the Open Project of the Experimental Station of Crop Cultivation and Observation in Northeast China, Northeast Agricultural University of China; Heilongjiang Acamedy of Agricultural Sciences Postdoctoral Programme; the Ministry of Agriculture Genetically Modified Major Project of China (SQ2016ZD080034); and the National Key Research and Development Plan of China (2016YFD0100103, 2017YFD0300502 and 2017YFD0300506).

Supplementary material

13258_2019_793_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Table S1. Sequences of eight gene-specific primers and primers for one internal reference gene (18S rDNA) (DOCX 17 KB)
13258_2019_793_MOESM2_ESM.xls (158 kb)
Table S2. Morphological indexes from the assay of 242 maize inbred lines under salty and normal conditions at the germination stage (XLS 157 KB)
13258_2019_793_MOESM3_ESM.xls (166 kb)
Table S3. Morphological indexes from the assay of 242 maize inbred lines under salty and normal conditions at the seedling stage (XLS 166 KB)
13258_2019_793_MOESM4_ESM.xlsx (1016 kb)
Table S4. DEGs in the salt-sensitive maize variety (L29) in response to salt stress (XLSX 1016 KB)
13258_2019_793_MOESM5_ESM.xlsx (1.7 mb)
Table S5. DEGs in the salt-tolerant maize variety (L87) in response to salt stress (XLSX 1763 KB)
13258_2019_793_MOESM6_ESM.xlsx (162 kb)
Table S6. GO enrichment of upregulated DEGs of the salt-sensitive maize variety (L29) in response to salt stress (XLSX 161 KB)
13258_2019_793_MOESM7_ESM.xlsx (138 kb)
Table S7. GO enrichment of downregulated DEGs of the salt-sensitive maize variety (L29) in response to salt stress (XLSX 138 KB)
13258_2019_793_MOESM8_ESM.xlsx (283 kb)
Table S8. GO enrichment of upregulated DEGs of the salt-tolerant maize variety (L87) in response to salt stress (XLSX 283 KB)
13258_2019_793_MOESM9_ESM.xlsx (258 kb)
Table S9. GO enrichment of downregulated DEGs of the salt-tolerant maize variety (L87) in response to salt stress (XLSX 257 KB)
13258_2019_793_MOESM10_ESM.xlsx (29 kb)
Table S10. KEGG enrichment of upregulated DEGs of the salt-sensitive maize variety (L29) in response to salt stress (XLSX 28 KB)
13258_2019_793_MOESM11_ESM.xlsx (23 kb)
Table S11. KEGG enrichment of downregulated DEGs of the salt-sensitive maize variety (L29) in response to salt stress (XLSX 23 KB)
13258_2019_793_MOESM12_ESM.xlsx (39 kb)
Table S12. KEGG enrichment of upregulated DEGs of the salt-tolerant maize variety (L87) in response to salt stress (XLSX 38 KB)
13258_2019_793_MOESM13_ESM.xlsx (31 kb)
Table S13. KEGG enrichment of downregulated DEGs of the salt-tolerant maize variety (L87) in response to salt stress (XLSX 30 KB)
13258_2019_793_MOESM14_ESM.xlsx (15 kb)
Table S14. The DEGs involved in phytohormone biosynthesis in the two cultivars (XLSX 15 KB)


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Copyright information

© The Genetics Society of Korea 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mingquan Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yufeng Wang
    • 1
  • Yifei Zhang
    • 1
  • Chunxia Li
    • 2
  • Shichen Gong
    • 2
  • Shuqin Yan
    • 2
  • Guoliang Li
    • 2
  • Guanghui Hu
    • 2
  • Honglei Ren
    • 2
  • Jianfei Yang
    • 2
  • Tao Yu
    • 2
  • Kejun Yang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.College of AgronomyHeilongjiang Bayi Agricultural University/Key Laboratory of Crop Germplasm Improvement and Cultivation in Cold Regions of Education DepartmentDaqingChina
  2. 2.Maize Research Institute of Heilongjiang Academy of Agricultural SciencesHarbinChina

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