Researchers Discover Genetic Regulators for Starch and Protein in Maize

May 29, 2019

Researchers from Rutgers University have discovered genetic regulators that synthesize starch and protein in maize. The team discovered how corn starch and protein are simultaneously synthesized in the endosperm, which could allow them to find a good balance between nutrient quality and yield. Domestication and modern breeding have gradually increased starch content in corn, but decreased protein accumulation in endosperms.

The researchers looked at zeins, the key proteins found in corn kernels which are devoid of lysine, an essential amino acid, resulting in poor nutrient quality. People have increased lysine content in corn by growing plants with lower zeins. Today, lysine levels are too low to meet the needs of the world's rapidly growing population.

The molecular geneticists and corn breeders tried to reduce zein levels to improve corn nutrient quality. They focused on blocking the zeins and the so-called transcription factors. The research team found that two transcription factors play key roles in regulating the synthesis of starch and protein.

For more details, read the news article in Rutgers Today.