Development and Application of a high throughput multiomics pipeline to uncover molecular signatures in drought stressed Maize Nodal Roots

One of the major focus areas in agricultural research is reducing the major limiting factor of drought for agricultural production worldwide. In the maize plant, water uptake is mainly acquired by the nodal root system after the seedling stage. These roots grow from multiple stem nodes, initially from below-ground and later from above-ground nodes. In drought conditions, nodal roots have shown to grow through dry topsoil to access water found at significant depth and transport water to other parts. This means these roots are able to grow under low water potential levels which normally inhibit leaf and stem growth. However, the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying nodal root elongation maintenance in drought conditions and under low water potentials remain largely uncharacterized.

To characterize these mechanisms and signatures – transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolome datasets where generated from nodal root samples from two different genotypes of the maize plant, B73 and FR697, the later demonstrated superior maintenance of nodal root elongation under drought conditions relative to  B73.  These datasets will be run through a high throughput multiomics pipeline.Multiomics analysis combines omics datasets and different data analysis methods to be used to look at all the signatures together instead of traditional approach of looking at subsets of interesting signatures. Combined with the multiple connected time point datasets, this gives the opportunity to generate highly accurate systems biology maps which can then be used to make models for root elongation and detect unique signatures previously not known to be linked to root elongation. We showcase the progress in the collection of the omics datasets and the development of the multiomics pipeline which is being tested using previously published plant omics data.