— Advancing Complete Annotation of the Maize Genome —
The ultimate goal of a genome project is to identify, annotate, and functionally characterize all the genes of an organism. Today, most gene annotations depend on computer-based gene prediction programs.
But because such techniques have often proven inadequate, researchers have turned to accurate sequencing of FLcDNAs. In rice, humans, mice, and other mammals, such FLcDNA strategies have proven instrumental in functionally characterizing genes.
Maize, as the most important US crop, merits a similar approach. The complete maize genome sequence will be available in approximately 2008. The availability of FLcDNA sequences will aid in accurate annotation and functional characterization of the sequenced genome.
In maize, FLcDNAs provide dual value. First, in combination with genome sequence data, they permit identification of introns/exons – which helps in determining gene function. And second, they help distinguish between closely related genes. This is particularly important in maize which contains multiple versions of the
same or slightly different genes as a result of more recent gene duplication and polyploidization that occurred less than 15 million years ago.
— Advancing Our Understanding of Gene Function in Maize —
The Maize FLcDNA Project will produce specific resources (distributed clones, filter arrays, sequence data) for use by the plant genetics community. Such resources will allow researchers to
- Advance basic research into maize and plant gene function
- Analyze untranslated regions and intron properties
- Explore gene evolution during cereal diversification, and after polyploidization in maize
- Better understand gene regulatory networks involved in plant reproduction; and
- Investigate how genes respond to environmental stresses as a way of developing higher yielding and broader adaptive crop plants to feed future generations.
— Developing Heartier, More Productive Maize Plants —
Ultimately, the study of maize genetics could produce better ways to feed the world – either through traditional breeding or transgenic technology. For a discussion of transgenic plants, click here.