November 19, 2009

Corn genome sequence - 'wiring diagram' - being released

While we've known for sometime that a map of the corn genome had been completed, details from the Maize Genome Sequencing Project will officially appear in tomorrow's edition of the journal Science - which features a cover story on the subject.

This new report highlights the high-quality sequence of genes in maize (corn) and provides a detailed physical map of the maize genome. This map identifies the order in which genes are located along each of maize's 10 chromosomes and the physical distances between those genes.

The National Corn Growers Association noted that public and private scientists will be able to take this knowledge and develop real world applications and innovative technological advances that will improve plants and expand their uses to meet growing needs for food, feed and fuel.

NCGA spearheaded the effort on legislation that authorized major plant genome research back in 1997.

Have a look at the sequence (click for a larger image):

According to the National Science Foundation, additional information provided by the new maize genome sequence includes the locations on chromosomes of interesting, repeated sections of DNA (called centromeres) that are responsible for the faithful inheritance of those chromosomes by daughter cells during cell division.

This new genome sequence represents a major watershed in genetics because it promises to dvance basic research of maize and other grains and help scientists and breeders improve maize crops, which are economically important and serve as globally important sources of food, fuel and fiber.

Resulting improved strains of maize may, for example, produce larger yields, show resistance to disease, offer efficiencies in nitrogen use that would enable farmers to reduce applications of costly, polluting fertilizers and tolerate changes in rainfall or temperature accompanying climate change.

“We used to compare a genome to a user manual, now we speak of it more like a wiring diagram. To gain the best value from this research, we need additional biological knowledge with which to pair it," said Pat Schnable, a professor of agronomy at Iowa State University.

A dozen companion papers on maize biology will be released in tandem with sequencing results.

For an interesting look at some of the details, read this post at Science News or this at the Washington Post.

You can also go to and browse the genome for yourself.

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