Penn State researcher makes corn gene discovering following 20 years of trials

January 17, 2019 |

In Pennsylvania, in discovering a mutant gene that “turns on” another gene responsible for the red pigments sometimes seen in corn, researchers solved an almost six-decades-old mystery with a finding that may have implications for plant breeding in the future.

The culmination of more than 20 years of work, the effort started when, in 1997, Surinder Chopra, professor of maize genetics at Penn State, received seeds from a mutant line of corn. At the time, Chopra was a postdoctoral scholar at Iowa State University, and he brought the research with him when he joined the Penn State faculty in 2000.

The mystery involved a spontaneous gene mutation that causes red pigments to show up in various corn plant tissues, such as kernels, cobs, tassels, silk and even stalks, for a few generations and then disappear in subsequent progeny. It might seem like a minor concern to the uninitiated, but because corn genetics have long been studied as a model system, the question has significant implications for plant biology.

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Category: Research

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