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Exogenous Methylglyoxal Improves Maize Yield by Alleviating Plant Diabetes and leaf senescence under Drought
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  • Shun-Li ZHOU,
  • Yi-Hsuan Lin,
  • Ya-Ning Zhou,
  • Yu-ka Jin,
  • Zu-Dong Xiao,
  • Yingjun Zhang,
  • Cheng Huang,
  • Bo Hong,
  • Zhen-Yuan Chen,
  • Si Shen
Shun-Li ZHOU
China Agricultural University College of Agronomy and Biotechnology

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Yi-Hsuan Lin
China Agricultural University College of Agronomy and Biotechnology
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Ya-Ning Zhou
China Agricultural University College of Agronomy and Biotechnology
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Yu-ka Jin
China Agricultural University College of Agronomy and Biotechnology
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Zu-Dong Xiao
China Agricultural University College of Agronomy and Biotechnology
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Yingjun Zhang
China Agricultural University College of Agronomy and Biotechnology
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Cheng Huang
China Agricultural University College of Agronomy and Biotechnology
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Bo Hong
China Agricultural University College of Agronomy and Biotechnology
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Zhen-Yuan Chen
China Agricultural University College of Agronomy and Biotechnology
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Si Shen
China Agricultural University College of Agronomy and Biotechnology
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Abstract

Drought-induced leaf senescence is related to high sugar levels in leaves, photosynthesis inhibition, and ultimate yield loss. This physiological phenomenon in leaves bears resemblance to the symptom of diabetes in human disease. However, the underlying mechanisms of plant diabetes on carbon imbalance in maize leaf and corresponding detoxification strategy have not been well understood. In this study, we demonstrated that foliar application of exogenous methylglyoxal (MG) delayed leaf senescence and promoted photoassimilation, retrieved 14% yield loss induced by drought stress during grain filling stage. Transcriptome and metabolite analysis revealed that drought increased sugar accumulation in leaf with inhibition of sugar transporters facilitating phloem loading. This further lead to disequilibrium of glycolysis and over-accumulation of endogenous MG. Contrarily, exogenous MG significantly upregulated glycolytic flux and glyoxalase system catabolizing endogenous MG and advanced glycation end products toxicity, ultimately alleviating plant diabetes. Besides, the genes facilitating anabolism and catabolism of trehalose-6-phosphate were promoted and suppressed by drought, respectively, whereas exogenous MG reversed the effect, revealing that trehalose-6-phosphate metabolism or signaling may contribute to MG-delayed leaf senescence under drought. Moreover, exogenous MG increased the activation of phenylpropanoid biosynthetic pathways, likely promoting cell structural integrity. Collectively, these results suggest that exogenous MG alleviates the toxic effect from drought-induced excessive sugar accumulation and activates the defense-related pathway, thereby maintaining leaf function and yield production.