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Natural Variation and Drought Responses in Developing Maize Inflorescences

Much of our work focuses on floral shoot branching in maize as an experimental system. The tassel and ear of maize comprise an attractive system because a series of shoot apical meristem fate decisions underlies normal development, and because their accessibility and large size facilitates their use in developmental and molecular experiments that exploit a plethora of research tools available in maize. In addition, the tassel and ear produce grain that is an important food and industrial commodity, and they are excellent models for other cereals. We identify genes important for floral branching in maize, use molecular techniques to understand the function of those gene products, and examine gene function in a broad, comparative context to evaluate its relevance to changes in crops during evolution, domestication and breeding. The genetic pathway regulating floral shoot branching that we identified is unique to and conserved among the cereal crops. Current work elucidates genes involved in that pathway, and how they function in different grasses. Much of this work relies an the analysis of mutants to determine gene function, and QTL and transcript profiling approaches to identify additional genes that function in genetic pathways we identify.

Funding: NSF Plant Genome Research Program – Award #1238202
Genetic Mechanisms Regulating Inflorescence Architecture in Maize and other Cereals