Plastid DNA in developing maize endosperm: Genome structure, methylation, and transcript accumulation patterns

Andrew J. McCullough, Jaakko Kangasjarvi, Burle G. Gengenbach, Robert J. Jones

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Amyloplasts in storage organs such as maize (Zea mays L.) endosperm are plastid-derived, nonphotosynthetic, starch-accumulating organelles. This study was initiated to characterize the plastid genome in maize endosperm cells containing differentiated amyloplasts and to determine whether plastid genes are transcribed during the period of amyloplast biogenesis in endosperm development. Four cosmid clones representing the total sequence diversity of the maize plastid genome were hybridized to restriction digests of total cellular DNA from isolated 16-day-old endosperms. The hybridization patterns indicated that the plastid DNA present in endosperm tissue was indistinguishable from that in leaf total DNA. Methylation of maize endosperm amyloplast DNA or leaf chloroplast DNA was not detected with the methylation-sensitive enzymes HpaII and EcoRII. Transcripts homologous to the 17 specific plastid DNA BamHI fragments tested were detectable in total RNA prepared from 16-day-old endosperm tissue. Compared with leaf transcripts, the abundance of endosperm transcripts was substantially lower for transcripts detected by 12 different BamHI fragments and was similar or relatively higher for some transcripts homologous to five BamHI fragments. Transcripts homologous to genes for plastid ribosomal small subunit proteins 7 and 12 on fragments 10 and 23 and to an open reading frame on fragment 14 accumulated primarily as unprocessed or partially processed species in endosperm RNA. The demonstration that maize endosperm cells contain an intact, transcriptionally active plastid genome indicates that plastid genes could contribute to amyloplast biogenesis, although no transcripts unique to endosperm were identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)958-964
Number of pages7
JournalPlant physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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