Background: Smoke released from burning vegetation functions as an important environmental signal promoting the germination of many plant species following a fire. It not only promotes the germination of species from fire-prone habitats, but several species from non-fire-prone areas also respond, including some crops. The germination stimulatory activity can largely be attributed to the presence of a highly active butenolide compound, 3-methyl-2H-furo[2,3-c]pyran-2-one (referred to as karrikin 1 or KAR1), that has previously been isolated from plant-derived smoke. Several hypotheses have arisen regarding the molecular background of smoke and KAR1 action.Results: In this paper we demonstrate that although smoke-water and KAR1 treatment of maize kernels result in a similar physiological response, the gene expression and the protein ubiquitination patterns are quite different. Treatment with smoke-water enhanced the ubiquitination of proteins and activated protein-degradation-related genes. This effect was completely absent from KAR1-treated kernels, in which a specific aquaporin gene was distinctly upregulated.Conclusions: Our findings indicate that the array of bioactive compounds present in smoke-water form an environmental signal that may act together in germination stimulation. It is highly possible that the smoke/KAR1 'signal' is perceived by a receptor that is shared with the signal transduction system implied in perceiving environmental cues (especially stresses and light), or some kind of specialized receptor exists in fire-prone plant species which diverged from a more general one present in a common ancestor, and also found in non fire-prone plants allowing for a somewhat weaker but still significant response. Besides their obvious use in agricultural practices, smoke and KAR1 can be used in studies to gain further insight into the transcriptional changes during germination.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Plant Science