Rutgers-led research offers new clues in the genetic mysteries of maize

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. Rutgers researchers, with the support of the National Science Foundation, have pushed back the frontiers on the genetic nature and history one of the world's most important crops corn. This crop dominates agriculture in the United States, where approximately 9 billion bushels are produced annually at a value of $30 billion. Maize (or corn) is also an important dietary staple in much of the third world.

Rutgers' Joachim Messing and his colleagues announced this month discoveries about the inner workings of corn, its origins and evolution, with implications for breeding, genetic engineering and future genomic studies.

"This latest research, conducted with worldwide collaborations, led us to a new understanding of maize that will help enable scientists and farmers to make major improvements in one of the world's most significant crops and gain new and important insights in plant genomic studies," said Messing, director of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. The findings are presented in three papers in the journal Genome Research and one in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The scientists conducted the most comprehensive survey of the maize genome ever performed and established for the first time the genome's magnitude approximately 59,000 genes and the relative position of the genes. This is twice as many as the human genome and the highest number of genes of any genome sequenced to date. Messing emphasized that this survey is only a first step and conducting a whole genome sequence is a priority dictated by nutritional, economic and societal needs.

The research further established that in addition to its immense size, the corn genome is extremely complex due, in part, to positional instability as well as its genetic history. Messing and his colleagues concluded that maize genes are scrambled, having moved around to different locat

Contact: Joseph Blumberg
732-932-7084 x652
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

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