Transcriptomic responses of plants to weed presence gives insight on the physiological and molecular mechanisms involved in the stress response. This study evaluated transcriptomic and morphological responses of two teosinte (Zea mays ssp parviglumis) (an ancestor of domesticated maize) lines (Ames 21812 and Ames 21789) to weed presence and absence during two growing seasons. Responses were compared after 6 weeks of growth in Aurora, South Dakota, USA. Plant heights between treatments were similar in Ames 21812, whereas branch number decreased when weeds were present. Ames 21789 was 45% shorter in weedy vs weed-free plots, but branch numbers were similar between treatments. Season-long biomass was reduced in response to weed stress in both lines. Common down-regulated subnetworks in weed-stressed plants were related to light, photosynthesis, and carbon cycles. Several unique response networks (e.g. aging, response to chitin) and gene sets were present in each line. Comparing transcriptomic responses of maize (determined in an adjacent study) and teosinte lines indicated three common gene ontologies up-regulated when weed-stressed: jasmonic acid response/signaling, UDP-glucosyl and glucuronyltransferases, and quercetin glucosyltransferase (3-O and 7-O). Overall, morphologic and transcriptomic differences suggest a greater varietal (rather than a conserved) response to weed stress, and implies multiple responses are possible. These findings offer insights into opportunities to define and manipulate gene expression of several different pathways of modern maize varieties to improve performance under weedy conditions.
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Bruggeman SA, Horvath DP, Fennell AY, Gonzalez-Hernandez JL, Clay SA (2020) Teosinte (Zea mays ssp parviglumis) growth and transcriptomic response to weed stress identifies similarities and differences between varieties and with modern maize varieties. PLoS ONE 15(8): e0237715. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal. pone.0237715