Biotech Updates

From Teosinte to Maize, An Evolutionary Farce?

October 9, 2009

An article in the American Journal of Botany titled A cellular study of teosinte Zea mays subsp. parviglumis (poaceae) caryopsis development showing several processes conserved in maize 1 dissected the possible evolution of the domesticated maize from teosinte, the wild relative of maize. The study by a group of researchers from the National Institute of Biology and Department of Biology, Slovenia, and University of Florida, USA led by Dr. Marina Dermastia revealed that many traits seen in the cellular development of maize kernels that were previously attributed to the process of domestication were observed in the development of the teosinte kernels.

The group observed some maize traits associated with seed development that can be found in teosinte including: programmed cell death, accumulation of phenolic compounds in the walls of these cells, and the presence of an enzyme that controls the flow of sugar in the developing seed. These traits of teosinte kernels suggest that they are not a consequence of maize domestication.

One interesting observation is that the distribution of cells with high DNA content, which is a result of endoreduplication, in maize differs from that of teosinte. In maize this high density DNA content is distributed throughout the endosperm, while it is in the upper part of the teosinte endosperm. This difference maybe a direct consequence of maize evolution.

The full article is downloadable at