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Background: Seed germination is a crucial process in the plant life cycle when a dramatic variation of type and sugar content occurs just as the seed is hydrated. The production of hexose 6 phosphate is a key node in different pathways that are required for a successful germination. Hexokinase (HXK) is the only plant enzyme that phosphorylates glucose (Glc), so it is key to fueling several metabolic pathways depending on their substrate specificity, metabolite regulatory responses and subcellular localization. In maize, the HXK family is composed of nine genes, but only six of them (ZmHXK4-9) putatively encode catalytically active enzymes. Here, we cloned and functionally characterized putative catalytic enzymes to analyze their metabolic contribution during germination process. Results: From the six HXKs analyzed here, only ZmHXK9 has minimal hexose phosphorylating activity even though enzymatic function of all isoforms (ZmHXK4-9) was confirmed using a yeast complementation approach. The kinetic parameters of recombinant proteins showed that ZmHXK4-7 have high catalytic efficiency for Glc, fructose (Fru) and mannose (Man), ZmHXK7 has a lower Km for ATP, and together with ZmHXK8 they have lower sensitivity to inhibition by ADP, G6P and N-acetylglucosamine than ZmHXK4-6 and ZmHXK9. Additionally, we demonstrated that ZmHXK4-6 and ZmHXK9 are located in the mitochondria and their location relies on the first 30 amino acids of the N-terminal domain. Otherwise, ZmHXK7-8 are constitutively located in the cytosol. HXK activity was detected in cytosolic and mitochondrial fractions and high Glc and Fru phosphorylating activities were found in imbibed embryos. Conclusions: Considering the biochemical characteristics, location and the expression of ZmHXK4 at onset of germination, we suggest that it is the main contributor to mitochondrial activity at early germination times, at 24 h other ZmHXKs also contribute to the total activity. While in the cytosol, ZmHXK7 could be responsible for the activity at the onset of germination, although later, ZmHXK8 also contributes to the total HXK activity. Our observations suggest that the HXKs may be redundant proteins with specific roles depending on carbon and ATP availability, metabolic needs, or sensor requirements. Further investigation is necessary to understand their specific or redundant physiological roles.
Aguilera-Alvarado, G. P., Guevara-García, Á. A., Estrada-Antolín, S. A., & Sánchez-Nieto, S. (2019). Biochemical properties and subcellular localization of six members of the HXK family in maize and its metabolic contribution to embryo germination. BMC Plant Biology, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12870-018-1605-x