Signaling molecule methylglyoxal-induced thermotolerance is partly mediated by hydrogen sulfide in maize (Zea mays L.) seedlings

  • Zhong-Guang Li
  • Wei-Biao Long
  • Shi-Zhong Yang
  • Yang-Cai Wang
  • Ji-Hong Tang
Original Article


Methylglyoxal (MG) was traditionally viewed as toxic by-product of glycolysis and photosynthesis in plants, but now is emerging as a signaling molecule, which, similar to hydrogen sulfide (H2S), participates in regulating seed germination, growth, development, and response to abiotic stress. However, whether exists an mutual effect between MG and H2S in improving thermotolerance in plants is not found to be reported. In this paper, interplay between MG and H2S in the formation of thermotolerance in maize seedlings was investigated. The results indicated that MG pretreatment elevated the survival percentage of maize seedlings under high-temperature stress, manifesting that MG could boost the thermotolerance of maize seedlings. Interestingly, MG-induced thermotolerance was reinforced by sodium hydrosulphide (NaHS, H2S donor), while impaired by dl-propargylglycine (inhibitor of H2S biosynthesis) and hypotaurine (scavenger of H2S), respectively. In addition, H2S could induce the thermotolerance of maize seedlings, which was impaired by aminoguanidine (AG) and N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC) (MG scavengers), respectively. Furthermore, MG stimulated the activity of a key enzyme in H2S biosynthesis, l-cysteine desulfhydrase, which, in turn, triggered the elevation of endogenous H2S in maize seedlings. In addition, H2S increased the level of endogenous MG; this increase was crippled by AG and NAC. This paper, for the first time, reported that MG could improve the thermotolerance of maize seedlings, and its acquisition was, at least partly, mediated by H2S.


Hydrogen sulfide Maize seedlings Methylglyoxal Signaling crosstalk Thermotolerance 



Abscisic acid




Advanced glycation end products


Aldo–keto reductase


Aldehyde dehydrogenase


Aldose/aldehyde reductase


Betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase


Carbon monoxide


Cysteine synthase


Dihydroxyacetone phosphate


Dry weight


Fresh weight

Gly I

Glyoxalase I

Gly II

Glyoxalase II


Glyoxalase III






Heat shock protein


Hydrogen sulfide




l-Cysteine desulfhydrase




MG dehydrogenase


MG reductase




Nitric oxide




Δ1-Pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthetase


Reactive oxygen species


Salicylic acid


Triosephosphate isomerase


Trehalose-6-phosphate phosphatase



This work is supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (31760069, 31360057).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Franciszek Górski Institute of Plant Physiology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Kraków 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhong-Guang Li
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Wei-Biao Long
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Shi-Zhong Yang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Yang-Cai Wang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Ji-Hong Tang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Life SciencesYunnan Normal UniversityKunmingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Engineering Research Center of Sustainable Development and Utilization of Biomass EnergyMinistry of EducationKunmingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Biomass Energy and Environmental BiotechnologyYunnan Normal UniversityKunmingPeople’s Republic of China

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