Background: Argonaute (AGO) protein is a kind of RNA binding protein that plays an integral role in the gene-silencing pathways guided by small RNAs. But there are few studies about the regulation of AGO genes responded to diverse abiotic stress in maize. Results: In this study, we analyzed the expression of seventeen ZmAGO genes under heat, cold, salinity, drought and ABA treatments using quantitative PCR (qPCR). All ZmAGOs showed differential expression modes under various abiotic stress treatments. Two ZmAGOs (ZmAGO1a and ZmAGO5d) and other fifteen ZmAGOs exhibited specific up-regulation in response to heat separately. Several ZmAGO genes are very sensitive to cold stress, but many ZmAGO genes are slow to respond to NaCl treatment. Nine ZmAGO genes (ZmAGO1f, ZmAGO2b, ZmAGO4, ZmAGO5a/b/c, ZmAGO7, ZmAGO9 and ZmAGO18a/b) presented definite up-regulation in response to drought, which were similar to the pattern of gene regulation under abscisic acid (ABA) treatment. Conclusions: Various ZmAGO genes respond to different abiotic stress treatments. These results provide fundamental information and insights for the further study on the role of abiotic stress resistance genes in maize and provide basis for further study on the function of AGO genes in response to abiotic stress in maize.
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