College of Agriculture & Life Sciences Publications and Scholarship


BACKGROUND: Aspergillus flavus infection and aflatoxin contamination of maize pose negative impacts in agriculture and health. Commercial maize hybrids are generally susceptible to this fungus. Significant levels of host plant resistance have been observed in certain maize inbred lines. This study was conducted to identify maize genes associated with host plant resistance or susceptibility to A. flavus infection and aflatoxin accumulation. RESULTS: Genome wide gene expression levels with or without A. flavus inoculation were compared in two resistant maize inbred lines (Mp313E and Mp04:86) in contrast to two susceptible maize inbred lines (Va35 and B73) by microarray analysis. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to find genes contributing to the larger variances associated with the resistant or susceptible maize inbred lines. The significance levels of gene expression were determined by using SAS and LIMMA programs. Fifty candidate genes were selected and further investigated by quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) in a time-course study on Mp313E and Va35. Sixteen of the candidate genes were found to be highly expressed in Mp313E and fifteen in Va35. Out of the 31 highly expressed genes, eight were mapped to seven previously identified quantitative trait locus (QTL) regions. A gene encoding glycine-rich RNA binding protein 2 was found to be associated with the host hypersensitivity and susceptibility in Va35. A nuclear pore complex protein YUP85-like gene was found to be involved in the host resistance in Mp313E. CONCLUSION: Maize genes associated with host plant resistance or susceptibility were identified by a combination of microarray analysis, qRT-PCR analysis, and QTL mapping methods. Our findings suggest that multiple mechanisms are involved in maize host plant defense systems in response to Aspergillus flavus infection and aflatoxin accumulation. These findings will be important in identification of DNA markers for breeding maize lines resistant to aflatoxin accumulation.


Public Library of Science

Publication Date



College of Agriculture and Life Sciences| James Worth Bagley College of Engineering


Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology| Department of Computer Sciences and Engineering


Aflatoxins, Aflatoxins: pharmacokinetics, Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus flavus: pathogenicity, Base Sequence, Chromosome Mapping, DNA, Gene Expression Profiling, Genes, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Host-Pathogen Interactions, Host-Pathogen Interactions: genetics, Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis, Plant, Plant Diseases, Plant Diseases: genetics, Plant Diseases: microbiology, Plant: genetics, Quantitative Trait Loci, Zea mays, Zea mays: genetics, Zea mays: metabolism, Zea mays: microbiology