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Abstract Detail

Phytochemistry: From atoms to organisms

Busta, Lucas [1], Schmitz, Elizabeth [2], Kosma, Dylan [3], Schnable, James [4], Cahoon, Edgar [2].

A co-opted steroid synthesis gene, maintained in sorghum but not maize, is associated with a divergence in leaf wax chemistry.

Virtually all land plants are coated in a cuticle, a waxy polyester that prevents non-stomatal water loss and is important for heat and drought tolerance. Here, we describe a likely genetic basis for a divergence in cuticular wax chemistry between Sorghum bicolor, a drought tolerant crop widely cultivated in hot climates, and its close relative Zea mays (maize). Combining chemical analyses, heterologous expression, and comparative genomics, we reveal that: (i) sorghum and maize leaf waxes are similar at the juvenile stage but, after the juvenile-to-adult transition, sorghum leaf waxes are rich in triterpenoids that are absent from maize, (ii) biosynthesis of the majority of sorghum leaf triterpenoids is mediated by a gene that maize and sorghum both inherited from a common ancestor but that is only functionally maintained in sorghum, and (iii) sorghum leaf triterpenoids accumulate in a spatial pattern that was previously shown to strengthen the cuticle and decrease water loss at high temperatures. These findings uncover the possibility for resurrection of a cuticular triterpenoid-synthesizing gene in maize, which could create a more heat-tolerant water barrier on the plant’s leaf surfaces. They also provide a fundamental understanding of sorghum leaf waxes that will inform efforts to divert surface carbon to intracellular storage for bioenergy and bioproduct innovations.

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1 - University of Minnesota Duluth, Chemistry and Biochemistry, 1038 University Dr, Duluth, Minnesota, 55812, United States
2 - University of Nebraska
3 - University of Nevada Reno
4 - University Of Nebraska, The Beadle Center E207, 1701 Vine St, The Beadle Center E207, 1701 Vine St, Lincoln, NE, 68516, United States

cuticular wax
Drought Tolerance
juvenile-to-adult transition.

Presentation Type: Colloquium Presentations
Session: C05, Phytochemistry: From Atoms to Organisms
Location: /
Date: Wednesday, July 21st, 2021
Time: 10:30 AM(EDT)
Number: C05002
Abstract ID:90
Candidate for Awards:None

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