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Crop Biotech Update

Gene that Influences Grain Yield Discovered

April 26, 2017

A gene that influences grain yield in grasses that are related to food crops was discovered by researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center's Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels (Enterprise Institute).

In a paper published in Nature Plants on April 18, 2017, a team led by Dr. Thomas Brutnell, director of the Enterprise Institute, and researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), conducted genetic screens to identify genes that may play a role in flower development on the panicle of green foxtail. Green foxtail is a wild relative of foxtail millet, and these Setaria species are related to several candidate bioenergy grasses (switchgrass and Miscanthus) and serve as model systems to study grasses that photosynthetically fix carbon from CO2 through a water-conserving (C4) pathway.

The research team identified four mutations that lead to reduced and uneven flower clusters. They also identified the gene in green foxtail that could be a determinant in controlling grain yield, which is crucial in improving food crops such as maize. To identify the causative mutation, the Brutnell lab screened 2,700 M2 families and deep sequenced a mutant pool. They confirmed that a homologous gene in maize played a similar role.

For more details, read the article at the Danforth Center News and Media page.