Maize (corn) dominates agriculture in the United States, where, according to the National Corn Growers Association, 9 billion bushels are produced annually at a value of more than $21 billion. No crop rivals its total grain yield or the diversity of its uses. Virtually all corn varieties grown today are hybrids. Understanding the genetic basis of heterosis could revolutionize our thinking about genetics and pave the way to even stronger, healthier or more productive strains.
Rentao Song and Joachim Messing of Rutgers' Waksman Institute of Microbiology discuss their findings in a paper published in the July 22 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The paper is currently available online.
Waksman scientists are deeply involved in the Maize Genome Sequencing Project, an initiative to determine the order and position of the genes on the plant's large and complex chromosomes. The heterosis investigations were a logical extension of the project.
Song and Messing took a region of a chromosome they had accurately mapped and compared it in two strains of maize to each other, to hybrid crosses, and to corresponding regions in close relatives of maize two kinds of rice. They also analyzed gene expression in the maize whether genes were turned on or off comparing the maize strains and hybrids.
They found that the same genome interval of the two maize varieties and their hybrids, all memb
Contact: Joseph Blumberg
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey