Date of this Version
Frontiers in Plant Science | www.frontiersin.org July 2018 | Volume 9 | Article 1058
Stress memory refers to the observation that an initial, sub-lethal stress alters plants’ responses to subsequent stresses. Previous transcriptome analyses of maize seedlings exposed to a repeated dehydration stress has revealed the existence of transcriptional stress memory in Zea mays. Whether drought-related physiological responses also display memory and how transcriptional memory translates into physiological memory are fundamental questions that are still unanswered. Using a systems-biology approach we investigate whether/how transcription memory responses established in the genome-wide analysis of Z. mays correlate with 14 physiological parameters measured during a repeated exposure of maize seedlings to dehydration stress. Co-expression network analysis revealed ten gene modules correlating strongly with particular physiological processes, and one module displaying strong, yet divergent, correlations with several processes suggesting involvement of these genes in coordinated responses across networks. Two processes key to the drought response, stomatal conductance and non-photochemical quenching, displayed contrasting memory patterns that may reflect trade-offs related to metabolic costs versus benefits of cellular protection. The main contribution of this study is the demonstration of coordinated changes in transcription memory responses at the genome level and integrated physiological responses at the cellular level upon repetitive stress exposures. The results obtained by the network-based systems analysis challenge the commonly held view that short-term physiological responses to stress are primarily mediated biochemically.