As an essential regulatory process of post-translational modifications, Sumoylation has been shown to play a central role in stress responses in higher plants.


However, the mechanisms underlying the involvement of the Sumoylation in stress responses in crops are largely unknown. In this study, a putative SUMO conjugating enzyme ortholog from Zea mays (ZmSCE1e) was isolated. Sequence alignments and phylogenetic analysis showed that ZmSCE1e possesses a central active domain similar to known SCE1 proteins, but is the cereal-specific isoform.The transcript levels of ZmSCE1e were markedly up-regulated by salt or drought stress. Over-expression of ZmSCE1e in tobacco plants increased levels of SUMO conjugates and enhanced their tolerances to salt and drought stresses. ZmSCE1e-transgenic plants showed higher activities of key antioxidant enzymes but lower hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and malondialdehyde (MDA) accumulations under salt or drought stress. Furthermore, expression of several stress defense genes was significantly elevated as revealed by qPCR in the ZmSCE1e-transgenic lines. Together, these data have demonstrated that ZmSCE1e improved salt and drought tolerance likely by modulating Sumoylation levels, antioxidant capability, and stress defense gene expression in transgenic plants. This study may facilitate our understanding of the biological roles of SCE-mediated Sumoylation under stress conditions in higher plants and accelerate genetic improvement of crop plants tolerant to environmental stresses.