Genome-wide mRNA profiling reveals heterochronic allelic variation and a new imprinted gene in hybrid maize endosperm


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Present address: State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14260, USA.

Mei Guo and Mary A. Rupe have contributed equally to this work.


We have taken a genomic approach to examine global gene expression in the maize endosperm in relation to dosage and parental effects. Endosperm of eight hybrids generated by reciprocal crosses and their seven inbred parents were sampled at three developmental stages: 10, 14, and 21 days after pollination (DAP). These samples were subjected to GeneCalling, an open-ended mRNA-profiling technology, which simultaneously analyzes thousands of genes. Results indicated that the overall level of gene expression in the maize endosperm was dosage-dependent, that is, the gene expression was proportional to the parental genome contribution of 2n maternal : 1n paternal. However, approximately 8% of the genes deviated from such allelic additive expression and exhibited differential expression in hybrids of reciprocal crosses, resembling either maternally or paternally expressed genes. There were more genes with maternal-like expression (MLE) than those with paternal-like expression (PLE). Allele-specific expression analysis of four selected genes using the WAVE denaturing HPLC (dHPLC) system revealed several mechanisms responsible for the deviation from the allelic additive expression in the hybrid endosperm: heterochronic allelic variation, allelic variation in the level of expression, and genomic imprinting. We discovered a novel imprinted gene no-apical-meristem (NAM) related protein1 (nrp1) that was expressed only in the endosperm and regulated by gene-specific imprinting. The nrp1 gene, a putative transcriptional factor, may play an important role in endosperm development.