Max Planck Institute: Pod Corn is Not a Maize Ancestor

Pod corn, a crop that is said to be maize's wild ancestor, is proved to be a product of mutation that results to development of leaves in the wrong places. Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research and Friedrich Schriller University said that the cause of leaf generation in the cob area is a leaf gene that is usually not active there. This type of maize has bewildered scientists for years with its covered kernels. These "covers" are long membranous husks which are known as glumes. In contrary to those who believe that this is an old relative of our normal maize today, pod corn is said to be just a mutant corn.

Findings of Heinz Saedler, Günter Theißen and their team have discovered how the mysterious look of the pod corn arises and the results show that it has nothing to do with the domestication of the maize as it is today. Saedler said that from the old crossing experiments the mutation must consist of at least two genetic components that can be inherited separately. When one component is inherited, the glumes that surround the kernels in this mutant are significantly smaller and less noticeable than that of the samples with both genetic components. Thus, these results show that the two components involved are copies of the same gene which are usually together and located in chromosome four (4). The region that controls the transcription of the gene is said to be damaged according to researchers and as a result, glumes develop a leaf-like pattern and mature until the kernels are completely wrapped.

The mutated gene is proved to belong to an entire family of development control genes known as the MADS-box gene family and other representatives of this family control other developmental processes in the plant.

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This article is part of the Crop Biotech Update, a weekly summary of world developments in agri-biotech for developing countries, produced by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology, International Service for the Aquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications SEAsiaCenter (ISAAA)

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