posted in: Science | 7

My first publication can now be viewed at the Theoretical and Applied Genetics (aka TAG) website. I’m the second of three authors of Wide variability in kernel composition, seed characteristics, and zein profiles among diverse maize inbreds, landraces, and teosinte. Sherry Flint-Garcia, the 1st author on this paper, is a young scientist already well known in maize genetics and a pleasure to work with.

My role was to collect and analyze data on the seed storage proteins (aka zeins) in maize inbreds, landraces, and teosintes. The similarity within the groups and differences across the groups is just amazing. Studies such as this one show just how important it is to maintain populations of crop relatives, if not for any other reason than as a source of genes for breeding.

Here’s the conclusion from the zeins part of the paper (emphasis mine):

Given that various zein proteins have different amino acid compositions, and our observation that several novel zeins accumulate in teosinte and not in landraces or inbred lines (Fig. 4; Supplemental Fig. 1), this study suggests that teosinte may potentially contribute genes for improvement of amino acid content as previously suggested (Swarup et al. 1995; Wang et al. 2008) or demonstrated with ssp. mexicana (Swarup et al. 1995; Wang et al. 2008). Many novel peaks were observed in the gamma region of the teosinte chromatographs (Supplemental Fig. 3). Further studies are needed to determine the amino acid sequence and nutritional value of the novel zein proteins. If these novel peaks are found to have potential nutritional value (i.e., increased methionine or cysteine content), genetic studies will be required to elucidate their gene sequence and regulation. In addition, there were differences in abundance of known zeins between teosinte and the other germplasm groups. Therefore, teosinte may be valuable in genetic studies attempting to define the regulation of the beta or gamma zein proteins.

If you’d like to learn more, but don’t want to read the whole paper, you might be interested in my poster for the 2009 Maize Genetics Conference: Characterizing alcohol soluble proteins in teosinte and tripsacum seeds (pdf). It covers many of the same ideas that were presented in the paper, but in a shortened easy-to-read format.

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Anastasia is Policy Director of Biology Fortified, Inc. and the Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. She has a PhD in genetics with a minor in sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University. Her favorite produce is artichokes!