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Crop Biotech Update

'Amazing Protein Diversity' Discovered in Maize

June 29, 2016

Doreen Ware, lead scientist in a new research to analyze and annotate the depth of maize genome says that "it is a lot more exciting" than previously believed. Ware, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York reports that their research establishes the amazing diversity of maize that has great importance for agriculture.

Ware was part of the multinational team in 2009 that assembled the first-ever sequence of maize's 30,000 or so genes. The discovery of maize's extraordinary protein diversity is based on more accurate "long-read" sequencing technology. This updated technology did not reveal many previously unknown genes, but rather, many more of the RNA messages that are generated when genes are activated. In all, 111,151 RNA transcripts from genes expressed in six different maize tissues were read and analyzed in the research. About 57% of these messages had never been seen – and therefore had never been sequenced.

Many of maize's 30,000-odd genes can generate RNA messages that can be edited in different ways, leading to the production of different proteins with different shapes and different functions. The research reveals new functional parts used to be unknown, and gives insight into what those other parts are and what they do, making possible new ways to breeding and adapting maize.

For more details, read the news release at CSHL News & Features.