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New map of variation in maize genetics holds promise for developing new varieties
Date:11/19/2009

ITHACA, N.Y. - A new study of maize has identified thousands of diverse genes in genetically inaccessible portions of the genome. New techniques may allow breeders and researchers to use this genetic variation to identify desirable traits and create new varieties that were not easily possible before.

Publishing in the Nov. 19 issue of Science, the researchers, whose senior and first author are at Cornell, have identified the first map of haplotypes sets of closely linked gene variants known as alleles in the maize genome. They have identified and mapped several million allele variants among 27 diverse inbred maize lines. The lines selected for study included a cross-section of maize types commonly used for breeding while also representing worldwide maize diversity.

The haplotype map "will help develop molecular markers and tools that breeders and geneticists around the world can use to study maize and improve maize varieties," said Ed Buckler, the paper's senior author, a USDA-ARS research geneticist in Cornell's Institute for Genomic Diversity and an adjunct professor of plant breeding and genetics. Michael Gore, a graduate student in Buckler's lab, is the paper's lead author.

The other co-authors are affiliated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and University of California-Davis.

In the last century, maize breeders have found limitations in recombination (the ability to shuffle genetic variation), where large regions genetic material fail to recombine near the chromosome's center, called the centromere. To overcome this, breeders have crossed two complementary lines, resulting in a new line with higher yields and vigor.

However, because large regions of the maize chromosome are less accessible, breeders cannot arrive at optimal genetic combinations.

The study has revealed a great deal of genetic variation near the chromoso
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Contact: Blaine Friedlander
bpf2@cornell.edu
607-254-8093
Cornell University
Source:Eurekalert

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