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Researcher gets NSF grant to create mutant maize lines

eeking to create maize plants with enhanced properties for agriculture or industry, Brutnell says.

"This is going to be the only resource of its kind, a sequence-indexed library that allows researchers to do a database search for a DNA sequence and identify a single line of maize with a single disruption in the genome," says Brutnell, who notes that the project could expand the understanding of the functions of about 20 percent of the maize plant's entire genome.

Once scientists have identified a maize mutant from the online library, they will be able to order kernels with that specific knockout gene. Researchers can then grow plants to identify the function of the gene they are interested in.

The maize kernels will be donated to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Maize Genetics Cooperative Stock Center, a national clearinghouse where scientists will be able to obtain the seeds for their experiments.

"A good chunk of this project is developing a community resource," Brutnell says. By providing these lines to the community, researchers with a wide range of interests and goals will have access to genetically unique seeds. For instance, researchers could use these lines to identify genes that make starch that is easier for enzymes to digest. Since ethanol is produced from maize starch, such a refinement could lead to cheaper ethanol. In terms of nutrition, researchers might target a gene that blocks an enzyme used in the pathway that processes beta carotene, or vitamin A, thereby creating a maize plant rich in the vitamin.

The project is especially important given the breadth of uses for maize, Brutnell adds. "If you walk into a grocery store, 80 percent of the products on the shelves contain maize, in the form of starch, sugar, meal or oil," he says. "It's a $23 billion-a-year industry in the U.S. alone."

Brutnell's colleagues include Erik Vollbrecht and Volker Brendel, both in the Department of Genetics, Development a
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Source:Cornell University News Service


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