Crop Biotech Update

ISU Scientists Report Missing Genes From One Maize Line to Another

November 26, 2010

Most plants and animals may differ among their hybrids or varieties but these are just minimal differences in terms of their genetic makeup. However, scientists from the Iowa State University, China Agricultural University, and the Beijing Genomics Institute in China discovered a deviance from this generalization in their current study on maize. They re-sequenced and compared six elite inbred maize lines, including the parents of the highest-yielding hybrids in China and observed that entire genes (up to 100) are missing in some corn lines but are present in others. This variation is called the presence or absence variation.

"That was a real eye opener," said Patrick Schnable, director of the Center for Plant Genomics and professor of agronomy at ISU. "One of the goals of the research is to try to identify how heterosis (hybrid vigor) works. If we can understand how heterosis works, we might be able to make predictions about which inbreds to cross together," said Schnable.

Schnable thinks that combining genes from two complementing lines could produce a better variety.

For more information, visit http://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2010/nov/schnable.