Factors affecting kernel yield in maize

1-4 genes, were investigated by examining the impact of knock-out mutations on kernel yield. GS gene expression was impaired in the mutants, resulting in reduced levels of GS1 protein and activity. The gln1-4 phenotype displayed reduced kernel size whereas gln1-3 had reduced kernel number, and both phenotypes were evident in the gln1-3 gln1-4 double mutant. Shoot biomass production at maturity was not affected in either the single mutants or double mutants, suggesting that both gene products play a specific role in grain production. Levels of asparagine increased in the leaves of the mutants during grain filling, most likely as a mechanism for circumventing toxic ammonium buildup resulting from abnormally low GS1 activity. Phloem sap analysis revealed that, unlike glutamine, asparagine is not efficiently transported to developing maize kernels, which could account for the reduced kernel production in the mutants. Constitutive overexpression of Gln1-3 in maize leaves resulted in a 30% increase in kernel number relative to wild type, providing further evidence that GS1 plays a major role in kernel yield.

Some of the major cereals, such as maize, sorghum, and sugar cane, exhibit C4 photosynthesis, which enhances the efficiency of photosynthesis at high temperature (most C4 plants originated in tropical climates). In standard C3 photosynthesis (present in rice, wheat, and most temperate crop plants), CO2 entering the leaf is converted to a 3-carbon compound via the C3 pathway, utilizing energy derived from the light reactions of photosynthesis. In plants that have C4 photosynthesis, the C3 pathway enzymes are localized in specialized bundle sheath cells which surround the vascular tissue in the interior of the leaf. CO2 entering mesophyll cells at the leaf surface initially is converted to a 4-carbon compound, which is shuttled into the bundle sheath cells and then decarboxylated to release CO2. CO2 released into bundle sheath cells then enters the standard

Contact: Nancy Eckardt
American Society of Plant Biologists

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