A combined untargeted approach was adopted to achieve a picture of the transcriptional and proteomic profiles typifying the maize root transition zone in response to nitrate.
Nitrate is an essential nutrient for plants, and crops depend on its availability for growth and development, but its presence in agricultural soils is far from stable. In order to overcome nitrate fluctuations in soil, plants have developed adaptive mechanisms allowing them to grow despite changes in external nitrate availability. Nitrate can act as both nutrient and signal, regulating global gene expression in plants, and the root tip has been proposed as the sensory organ. A set of genome-wide studies has demonstrated several nitrate-regulated genes in the roots of many plants, although only a few studies have been carried out on distinct root zones. To unravel new details of the transcriptomic and proteomic responses to nitrate availability in a major food crop, a double untargeted approach was conducted on a transition zone-enriched root portion of maize seedlings subjected to differing nitrate supplies. The results highlighted a complex transcriptomic and proteomic reprogramming that occurs in response to nitrate, emphasizing the role of this root zone in sensing and transducing nitrate signal. Our findings indicated a relationship of nitrate with biosynthesis and signalling of several phytohormones, such as auxin, strigolactones, and brassinosteroids. Moreover, the already hypothesized involvement of nitric oxide in the early response to nitrate was confirmed with the use of nitric oxide inhibitors. Our results also suggested that cytoskeleton activation and cell wall modification occurred in response to nitrate provision in the transition zone.