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To branch or not to branch
Date:6/26/2008

ted, the mutant maize plants have more and longer branches and produce smaller and deformed cobs.

These scientists also studied the expression patterns of these genes in other species. RA1 appears to be absent in rice and is found only in the large tribe, Andropogoneae, which includes maize and sorghum. RA2 and RA3 appear to be conserved over many grass taxa suggesting that they are important in controlling inflorescence architecture in all grasses. Vollbrecht and his colleagues propose that all three of these genes have been important in the evolution of grass inflorescence architecture.

One of Charles Darwin's insights was that natural selection is the same as artificial selection. He formulated the theory of evolution, in part through his observations of the work of breeders of plants and animals. Domestication is a form of artificial selection, and it is thought that as many as 1200 genes were important in transforming maize into a major food crop. Maize is a good model plant for studying inflorescence and grain morphology because it has a complex genome and a rich genetic history with numerous developmental mutants. Mutant maize plants with more and longer branches have been known since the early 20th century, but the reasons for these architectural aberrations were unknown until recently. Studies of these mutants and the genes that were important in the domestication and evolution of grain crops are providing insights for the genetic engineering of crops to improve yield as well as resistance to pests and tolerance for difficult growing conditions such as poor soils, heat, and drought.


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Contact: Erik Vollbrecht
vollbrec@iastate.edu
515-294-9009
American Society of Plant Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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