Biotech Updates

Researchers Capture Genetic Snapshot of Maize

July 23, 2014

Oxford University researchers have captured a 'genetic snapshot' of maize as it existed 10 million years ago when the plant doubled its genome. They then traced how maize evolved to use these 'copied' genes to cope with the pressures of domestication 12,000 years ago. The team discovered that these copied genes were important to optimizing photosynthesis in maize leaves and that early farmers selecting for them ‘fuelled' the transformation of maize into a high-yield crop.

Dr. Steve Kelly of Oxford University's Department of Plant Sciences, and lead author of the report published in Genome Research said, "Although whole genome duplication events are widespread in plants, finding evidence of exactly how plants use this new 'toolbox' of copied genes is very difficult."  He added that they can now chart how the gene copies were first acquired, then put to work, and finally 'whittled down' to create the modern maize plant today.

For more information, read the news release at