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The amazing maze of maize evolution
Date:10/2/2009

Understanding the evolution and domestication of maize has been a holy grail for many researchers. As one of the most important crops worldwide and as a crop that appears very different from its wild relatives as a result of domestication, understanding exactly how maize has evolved has many practical benefits and may help to improve crop yields.

In the October issue of the American Journal of Botany (www.amjbot.org/cgi/content/full/96/10/1798), Dr. Marina Dermastia and colleagues published their research comparing corn kernel development to its closest wild relative: teosinte. This research overturns some commonly held beliefs on the domestication of maize because, unexpectedly, many traits seen in the cellular development of maize kernels that were previously attributed to the process of domestication were observed in the development of the teosinte kernels by Dermastia and her colleagues. "Although the teosinte kernels are morphologically so different from that of maize, their inside is not, Dermastia said. "Although we did not expect fundamental differences between maize and teosinte, the similarities were striking."

Some of the traits thought to be unique to maize but now also found in teosinte include an early programmed cell death for cells in part of the kernel and accumulation of phenolic and flavonoid compounds in the walls of these cells. These developmental changes strengthen the cells, protect them against decay and disease, and increase water conductance. According to Dermastia, "We suggested previously that this process was important for the establishment of the water and assimilate flow to the developing maize kernelin the teosinte kernel, we not only detected programmed cell deathbut also all other phenomena described as related to the transport into the maize kernel." The presence of these traits in teosinte kernels suggests that they are not a consequence
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Contact: Richard Hund
rhund@botany.org
314-577-9557
American Journal of Botany
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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