Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Genomics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Open Badges Research article

Effects of salinity on the transcriptome of growing maize leaf cells point at cell-age specificity in the involvement of the antioxidative response in cell growth restriction

Michael Kravchik and Nirit Bernstein*

Author Affiliations

Institute of Soil Water and Environmental Sciences, Volcani Center, POB 6, 50-250, Bet-Dagan, Israel

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Genomics 2013, 14:24  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-24

Published: 16 January 2013



Salinity inhibits growth and development of most plants. The response to salinity is complex and varies between plant organs and stages of development. It involves challenges of ion toxicities and deficiencies as well as osmotic and oxidative stresses. The range of functions affected by the stress is reflected in elaborate changes to the transcriptome. The mechanisms involved in the developmental-stage specificity of the inhibitory responses are not fully understood. The present study took advantage of the well characterized developmental progression that exists along the maize leaf, for identification of salinity induced, developmentally-associated changes to the transcriptome. Differential subtraction screening was conducted for cells of two developmental stages: from the center of the growth zone where the expansion rate is highest, and from older cells at a more distal location of the growing zone where the expansion rate is lower and the salinity restrictive effects are more pronounced. Real-Time PCR analysis was used for validation of the expression of selected genes.


The salinity-induced changes demonstrated an age-related response of the growing tissue, with elevation of salinity-damages with increased age. Growth reduction, similar to the elevation of percentage dry matter (%DM), and Na and Cl concentrations were more pronounced in the older cells. The differential subtraction screening identified genes encoding to proteins involved in antioxidant defense, electron transfer and energy, structural proteins, transcription factors and photosynthesis proteins. Of special interest is the higher induced expression of genes involved in antioxidant protection in the young compared to older cells, which was accompanied by suppressed levels of reactive oxygen species (H2O2 and O2-). This was coupled with heightened expression in the older cells of genes that enhance cell-wall rigidity, which points at reduced potential for cell expansion.


The results demonstrate a cell-age specificity in the salinity response of growing cells, and point at involvement of the antioxidative response in cell growth restriction. Processes involved in reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenging are more pronounced in the young cells, while the higher growth sensitivity of older cells is suggested to involve effects on cell-wall rigidity and lower protein protection.

Antioxidative response; Growth; Leaf; Maize; ROS; Salinity; Salt Stress