• Aflatoxin;
  • Aspergillus flavus;
  • 2-D DIGE;
  • Plant proteomics;
  • Rachis;
  • Zea mays


Infection of the maize (Zea mays L.) with aflatoxigenic fungus Aspergillus flavus and consequent contamination with carcinogenic aflatoxin is a persistent and serious agricultural problem causing disease and significant crop losses worldwide. The rachis (cob) is an important structure of maize ear that delivers essential nutrients to the developing kernels and A. flavus spreads through the rachis to infect kernels within the ear. Therefore, rachis plays an important role in fungal proliferation and subsequent kernel contamination. We used proteomic approaches and investigated the rachis tissue from aflatoxin accumulation resistant (Mp313E and Mp420) and susceptible (B73 and SC212m) maize inbred lines. First, we compared rachis proteins from resistant and susceptible inbred lines, which revealed that the young resistant rachis contains higher levels of abiotic stress-related proteins and proteins from phenylpropanoid metabolism, whereas susceptible young rachis contains pathogenesis-related proteins, which are generally inducible upon biotic stress. Second, we identified A. flavus-responsive proteins in rachis of both resistant and susceptible genotypes after 10- and 35-day infection. Differential expression of many stress/defense proteins during rachis juvenility, maturation and after A. flavus challenge demonstrates that resistant rachis relies on constitutive defenses, while susceptible rachis is more dependent on inducible defenses.