Maize seedling morphology and defence hormone profiles, but not herbivory tolerance, were mediated by domestication and modern breeding Academic Article uri icon


  • 2017 Association of Applied Biologists We addressed whether Zea seedling morphology relevant to performance, defence hormone profiles and tolerance of a phloem-feeding, specialist herbivore were affected by two processes, plant domestication and modern breeding. Domestication effects were inferred through comparisons between Balsas teosintes (Zea mays parviglumis) and landrace maizes (Z. mays mays), and modern breeding effects through comparisons between landrace maizes and inbred maize lines. Specifically, we compared seedling forms (a composite measure of leaf length, average stem diameter, shoot wet weight, shoot dry weight, total root length, root wet weight, and root dry weight), shapes (forms scaled by seedling dry weight, a proxy for seedling size), and defence hormone profiles among Balsas teosinte and landrace and inbred line maizes, exposed or unexposed to feeding by Dalbulus maidis. Our results suggested that domestication as well as modern breeding strongly mediated both seedling form and shape. Form was more similar between landrace and inbred maize than between Balsas teosinte and landrace maize, suggesting that domestication affected seedling form more than modern breeding. In contrast, shape was more similar between Balsas teosinte and landrace maize than between landrace and inbred maizes, suggesting that modern breeding affected seedling shape more than domestication. Additionally, seedling shoot : root ratios appeared to have been mediated by domestication, but not by modern breeding. In broad terms, individual seedling structures relevant to seedling ecology in wild or managed environments, such as leaf and root lengths, and shoot and root masses, were enlarged with domestication and reduced with modern breeding. Herbivory did not affect seedling shape, but had a weak effect on form so that seedlings were slightly larger in the absence versus presence of D. maidis. Also, both domestication and modern breeding seem to have mediated seedling hormone profiles, with breeding more strongly mediating profiles than domestication. Jasmonic acid isoleucine (JA-Ile) and salicylic acid (SA) were induced by herbivory in both teosinte and maize. The hormone profiles assays collectively suggested that domestication and modern breeding altered constitutive levels of SA, abscisic acid and JA-related (JA-Ile and oxo-phytodienoic acid) hormone levels in seedlings, particularly by increasing the levels of SA and decreasing those of JA-related hormones. Altogether, our results suggested that maize domestication and modern breeding significantly altered seedling form, shape, ecologically relevant morphological traits (e.g. leaf and root lengths, and shoot and root masses) and hormonal defences, but not tolerance of D. maidis herbivory.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Chinchilla-Ramirez, M., Borrego, E. J., DeWitt, T. J., Kolomiets, M. V., & Bernal, J. S.

citation count

  • 13

complete list of authors

  • Chinchilla-Ramirez, M||Borrego, EJ||DeWitt, TJ||Kolomiets, MV||Bernal, JS

publication date

  • May 2017