Drought stress in maize: stress perception to molecular response and strategies for its improvement

Ashutosh Singh, Himanshu Pandey, Saurabh Pandey, Dalpat Lal, Divya Chauhan, Aparna, Suresh H. Antre, B. Santhosh, Amarjeet Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Given the future demand for food crops, increasing crop productivity in drought-prone rainfed areas has become essential. Drought-tolerant varieties are warranted to solve this problem in major crops, with drought tolerance as a high-priority trait for future research. Maize is one such crop affected by drought stress, which limits production, resulting in substantial economic losses. It became a more serious issue due to global climate change. The most drought sensitive among all stages of maize is the reproductive stages and the most important for overall maize production. The exact molecular basis of reproductive drought sensitivity remains unclear due to genes’ complex regulation of drought stress. Understanding the molecular biology and signaling of the unexplored area of reproductive drought tolerance will provide an opportunity to develop climate-smart drought-tolerant next-generation maize cultivars. In recent decades, significant progress has been made in maize to understand the drought tolerance mechanism. However, improving maize drought tolerance through breeding is ineffective due to the complex nature and multigenic control of drought traits. With the help of advanced breeding techniques, molecular genetics, and a precision genome editing approach like CRISPR-Cas, candidate genes for drought-tolerant maize can be identified and targeted. This review summarizes the effects of drought stress on each growth stage of maize, potential genes, and transcription factors that determine drought tolerance. In addition, we discussed drought stress sensing, its molecular mechanisms, different approaches to developing drought-resistant maize varieties, and how molecular breeding and genome editing will help with the current unpredictable climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number296
JournalFunctional and Integrative Genomics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Advanced biotechnological tools
  • CRISPR-Cas
  • Drought stress
  • Maize
  • Reproductive stage
  • Signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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