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Corn researchers discover novel gene shut-off mechanisms
Date:10/31/2008

University of Delaware scientists, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Arizona and South Dakota State University, have identified unusual differences in the natural mechanisms that turn off, or "silence," genes in corn.

The discovery, which was made by comparing the impact of inactivating a gene that occurs in both corn and in the much-studied laboratory plant Arabidopsis, provides new insight into how one of the world's most important crops protects itself from mutation-causing mobile DNA elements and viruses.

The research was led by Blake Meyers, associate professor of plant and soil sciences, and Pamela Green, Crawford H. Greenewalt Chair and professor of plant and soil sciences and marine bioscience, and their laboratory groups at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, a major center for biotechnology and life sciences research at the University of Delaware.

Collaborating with the University of Delaware team were Vicki Chandler, the Carl E. and Patricia Weiler Endowed Chair for Excellence in Agriculture and Life Sciences Regents' Professor at the University of Arizona, and Yang Yen, a professor at South Dakota State University.

The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Studies of Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant of the mustard family that is easy to grow in the lab, have provided a lot of what scientists know about gene silencing in plants.

An important key to the process is short sequences of ribonucleic acids known as "small RNAs" which act like biochemical switches that shut off genes, thus playing a fundamental role in plant development. Understanding how small RNAs work is a continuing quest for geneticists seeking to breed plants with improved crop yields, disease resistance and other characteristics.

Previously, the Meyers and Green labs had studied Arabidopsi
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Contact: Tracey Bryant
tbryant@udel.edu
302-831-8185
University of Delaware
Source:Eurekalert  

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