The circadian clock regulates numerous biological processes in plants, especially development and stress responses. CIRCADIAN CLOCK-ASSOCIATED 1 (CCA1) is one of the core components of the day-night rhythm response and is reportedly associated with ambient temperature in Arabidopsis thaliana.

However, it remains unknown if alternative splicing of ZmCCA1 is modulated by external stress in maize, such as drought stress and photoperiod. Here, we identified three ZmCCA1 splice variants in the tropical maize line CML288, which are predicted to encode three different protein isoforms, i.e., ZmCCA1.1, ZmCCA1.2, and ZmCCA1.3, which all retain the MYB domain. In maize, the expression levels of ZmCCA1 splice variants were influenced by photoperiod, tissue type, and drought stress. In transgenic A. thaliana, ZmCCA1.1 may be more effective than ZmCCA1.3 in increasing drought tolerance while ZmCCA1.2 may have only a small effect on tolerance to drought stress. Additionally, although CCA1 genes have been found in many plant species, alternative CCA1 splicing events are known to occur in species-specific ways. Our study provides new sight to explore the function of ZmCCA1 splice variants' response to abiotic stress, and clarify the linkage between circadian clock and environmental stress in maize.