Maize gene could lead to bumper harvest

Jan 16, 2012
Maize gene could lead to bumper harvest
Maize plants. Credit: Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez

(PhysOrg.com) -- The discovery of a new ‘provisioning’ gene in maize plants that regulates the transfer of nutrients from the plant to the seed could lead to increased crop yields and improve food security.

Scientists from Oxford University and the University of Warwick, in collaboration with agricultural biotech research company Biogemma-Limagrain, have identified the gene, called Meg 1.

They report their find, which they believe could help to increase global food production, in this week’s Current Biology.

Unlike the majority of , which are expressed from both maternal and paternal chromosomes, Meg1 is expressed only from the maternal chromosomes. This unusual form of uniparental gene expression, termed ‘imprinting’, also occurs with some genes in humans, which regulate the development of the placenta to control the supply of maternal nutrients during foetal growth.

The team, led by Dr. Jose Gutierrez-Marcos of the University of Warwick, and Dr Liliana Costa and Professor Hugh Dickinson of Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences, has now highlighted that plants have also adopted a similar system to regulate nutrient provisioning during seed development.

The researchers demonstrated that Meg1 is responsible for the formation of specialized conduit cells that confer placenta-like properties to the embryo surrounding tissues of plant seeds to regulate the transfer of nutrients from mother to offspring.

Dr. Gutierrez-Marcos of the University of Warwick said: "These findings have significant implications for global agriculture and food security, as scientists now have the molecular know-how to manipulate this gene by traditional plant breeding or through other methods in order to improve seed traits, such as increased seed biomass yield.

"This understanding of how seeds and other cereal grains develop (e.g. in rice and wheat) is vital, as the global population relies on these staple products for sustenance. Therefore to meet the demands of the world’s growing population in years to come, scientists and breeders must work together to safeguard and increase agricultural production.’

Professor Hugh Dickinson of Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences, said: "The identification of Meg1 is a highly-important discovery and represents a vital first step in this process; the next will be to identify other genes involved in regulating provisioning and nutritional content of seeds."

The research was supported by the European Union and the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. A report of the research, entitled ‘Maternal control of nutrient allocation in plant seeds by genomic imprinting’, is published in this week’s .

Explore further: Vermicompost leachate improves tomato seedling growth

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Improving wheat yields for global food security

Jul 25, 2011

With the world’s population set to reach 8.9 billion by 2050, CSIRO scientists are hunting down and exploiting a number of wheat’s key genetic traits in a bid to substantially boost its grain yield.

35,000 new species 'sitting in cupboards'

Dec 07, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Of 70,000 species of flowering plants yet to be described by scientists, more than half may already have been collected but are lying unknown and unrecognised in collections around the world, ...

Recommended for you

Vermicompost leachate improves tomato seedling growth

Nov 21, 2014

Worldwide, drought conditions, extreme temperatures, and high soil saline content all have negative effects on tomato crops. These natural processes reduce soil nutrient content and lifespan, result in reduced plant growth ...

Plant immunity comes at a price

Nov 21, 2014

Plants are under permanent attack by a multitude of pathogens. To win the battle against fungi, bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, they have developed a complex and effective immune system. And just as ...

Evolution: The genetic connivances of digits and genitals

Nov 20, 2014

During the development of mammals, the growth and organization of digits are orchestrated by Hox genes, which are activated very early in precise regions of the embryo. These "architect genes" are themselves regulated by ...

Surrogate sushi: Japan biotech for bluefin tuna

Nov 20, 2014

Of all the overfished fish in the seas, luscious, fatty bluefin tuna are among the most threatened. Marine scientist Goro Yamazaki, who is known in this seaside community as "Young Mr. Fish," is working to ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.