Maize population study finds genes affected by long-term artificial selection

Jun 19, 2014
A genome-wide scan of a long-term maize breeding project is helping researchers identify genetic elements involved in producing a desired trait, in this case, the increased number of ears per maize plant. Credit: JDevaun via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

Researchers conducted a genome-wide scan of a long-term maize breeding study to find the genes involved in increasing the number of ears per maize plant.

The study demonstrates how significantly reduced costs associated with sequencing and the ability to detect common single nucleotide sequence variations (SNPs) within a population are enabling to identify selected genomic regions targeted by in natural populations.
One of the projects associated with the goal of converting plant biomass into biofuel is improving biomass production. Long-term breeding projects have provided agricultural researchers with the resources to identify the genes impacted by artificially selecting for specific characteristics. A collaboration involving researchers from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and the U.S Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute took advantage of one such long-term breeding study in a population to conduct such a search.

As reported in the March 1, 2014 issue of Genetics, the team focused on the Golden Glow maize , which, over 30 generations, had been bred to increase the number of ears per maize plant more than threefold. As populations undergo selection such as the increase of ears per plant, changes in allele frequency occur. Alleles are alternative forms of a gene occupying a specific spot or locus on a chromosome. Changes in allelic composition can provide researchers with information on the genetic control of a trait.

To learn more about these allele frequencies, leaf tissue from was extracted for SNP genotyping and for whole-genome resequencing. Across the 10 maize chromosomes, 28 "highly divergent" regions were identified, 22 of which contain 5 or fewer annotated gene models, while 14 contain one or zero annotated genes. For most regions, the researchers found that selection appeared to operate on standing genetic variation. For about a quarter of the regions, however, the team found that "selection operated on variants located outside of currently annotated coding regions." This finding, the researchers noted, could either mean the aren't present in the reference genome, or these are examples of selection on nongenic DNA.

By combining genomics and bioinformatics approaches in a collaborative setting, researchers hope to improve the efficiency of breeding crop species for biofuel feedstock use, which in turn would contribute to the increased use of .

Explore further: More than just a hill of beans: Phaseolus genome lends insights into nitrogen fixation

More information: Beissinger TM et al. "A genome-wide scan for evidence of selection in a maize population under long-term artificial selection for ear number." Genetics. 2014 Mar;196(3):829-40. DOI: 10.1534/genetics.113.160655

Related Stories

Going deep to improve maize transcriptome

Apr 29, 2014

A team of researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), the University of California, Berkeley, and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center generated an ultra-deep, high ...

Maize hybrid looks promising for biofuel

Feb 20, 2012

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have identified a new contender in the bioenergy race: a temperate and tropical maize hybrid. Their findings, published in GCB Bioenergy, show that the maize hybrid ...

Recommended for you

Bacterial tenants in fungal quarters

19 hours ago

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich researchers have sequenced the genome of a bacterial symbiont hosted by a mycorrhizal fungus. Analysis of the symbiont's genetic endowment reveals previously unknown ...

First step towards global attack on potato blight

May 28, 2015

European researchers and companies concerned with the potato disease phytophthora will work more closely with parties in other parts of the world. The first move was made during the biennial meeting of the ...

Bacteria study could have agricultural impact

May 28, 2015

Wichita State University microbiology professor Mark Schneegurt and ornithology professor Chris Rogers have discovered that one of North America's most common migratory birds – the Dark-eyed Junco – carries ...

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.