Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Genome-wide identification, classification and analysis of heat shock transcription factor family in maize

Yong-Xiang Lin, Hai-Yang Jiang, Zhang-Xin Chu, Xiu-Li Tang, Su-Wen Zhu and Bei-Jiu Cheng*

Author Affiliations

Key Lab of Crop Biology, School of Life Sciences, Anhui Agricultural University, Hefei, Anhui, China

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BMC Genomics 2011, 12:76  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-76

Published: 27 January 2011



Heat shock response in eukaryotes is transcriptionally regulated by conserved heat shock transcription factors (Hsfs). Hsf genes are represented by a large multigene family in plants and investigation of the Hsf gene family will serve to elucidate the mechanisms by which plants respond to stress. In recent years, reports of genome-wide structural and evolutionary analysis of the entire Hsf gene family have been generated in two model plant systems, Arabidopsis and rice. Maize, an important cereal crop, has represented a model plant for genetics and evolutionary research. Although some Hsf genes have been characterized in maize, analysis of the entire Hsf gene family were not completed following Maize (B73) Genome Sequencing Project.


A genome-wide analysis was carried out in the present study to identify all Hsfs maize genes. Due to the availability of complete maize genome sequences, 25 nonredundant Hsf genes, named ZmHsfs were identified. Chromosomal location, protein domain and motif organization of ZmHsfs were analyzed in maize genome. The phylogenetic relationships, gene duplications and expression profiles of ZmHsf genes were also presented in this study. Twenty-five ZmHsfs were classified into three major classes (class A, B, and C) according to their structural characteristics and phylogenetic comparisons, and class A was further subdivided into 10 subclasses. Moreover, phylogenetic analysis indicated that the orthologs from the three species (maize, Arabidopsis and rice) were distributed in all three classes, it also revealed diverse Hsf gene family expression patterns in classes and subclasses. Chromosomal/segmental duplications played a key role in Hsf gene family expansion in maize by investigation of gene duplication events. Furthermore, the transcripts of 25 ZmHsf genes were detected in the leaves by heat shock using quantitative real-time PCR. The result demonstrated that ZmHsf genes exhibit different expression levels in heat stress treatment.


Overall, data obtained from our investigation contributes to a better understanding of the complexity of the maize Hsf gene family and provides the first step towards directing future experimentation designed to perform systematic analysis of the functions of the Hsf gene family.