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Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Pinpoint Gene Vital for Making Maize Ears

April 10, 2019

How do maize plants form their ears? This question was answered by a team of scientists from the University of Missouri led by maize geneticist Paula McSteen through their study that helped identify the specific gene vital for forming the ears in maize. The results of their study are published in Molecular Plant.

The research team found that the gene known as barren stalk 2 (ba2) has an impact on the development of axillary meristems, which are special cells that give rise to the ears. To pinpoint the genes needed to produce the ears, the researchers looked for plants that cannot make the organ properly. They found that plants with mutations in ba2 never make ears, thus its name. The mutant plants do not have grooves where the ears would form, which imply that the gene functions early, before the ear bud forms. Then the ba2 mutant was discovered in a large genetic screen for maize plants not able to grow ears, and the gene was identified through molecular mapping.

Additional tests further showed that ba2 is linked with other genes that regulate ba1. Together, these findings how that ba2 is in the same molecular signaling pathway as ba1 and the two genes work together to regulate ear development.

Read more from the University of Missouri.