Biotech Updates

Researchers Find Key Pieces to Corn Yield Puzzle

May 28, 2014

A multi-institutional team led by plant scientist Brian Larkins at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has identified the genes and molecules involved during the first few days after pollination in corn. Research has been done about the later stages of maturing kernels and has greatly improved corn yields and performance under stress. But the initial stages of kernel development, when it begins to form from a single cell, are more difficult to study because of its tiny size. The genes involved also create few, short-lived mRNAs, which makes their identification more challenging.

To identify the genes, the team looked for mRNAs present in the endosperm at different points in its first few days after pollination. According to Larkins, they have identified nearly all of the genes involved from about 34,000 mRNAs and more than a hundred transcription factors. The team also identified the order and patterns in which the genes are expressed, and they key transitional points in kernel development.

Larkins likened their accomplishment to finding pieces to a complex puzzle, and he and other researchers can now assemble the complete picture of early corn kernel development.

For more information about this research, read the news release available at