Tracking Down the Jumping Genes of Maize

04:44 EDT 24 Aug 2017 | Meridian Institute

An international team of researchers led by the University of California, Davis, and the Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory, both in the United States, have mapped the DNA sequences in maize that can move locations within a genome. These transposable elements, or transposons, are believed to have important roles in cells, including regulating gene expression. Yet the exact locations of transposons have been elusive due to the difficulty of sequencing and assembling them. The team was able to identify the positions of the transposons in maize even when they jump into each other. “Earlier maize reference genomes did not identify all of the repetitive regions,” said Michelle Stitzer, a graduate student in population biology at UC Davis. “Until now, we knew relative positions of sequence segments, but not all of the messy parts in between. This new technology has allowed us to sequence all of the repetitive regions.” The way in which the maize plant interacts with its environment is known to be impacted by transposon insertions. For example, different insertions could confer drought tolerance, alter flowering time, or could have allowed maize to spread to temperate latitudes. Says Damon Lisch, a professor at Purdue University, also in the U.S., who studies the regulation and evolution of plant transposable elements, “We simply cannot understand the complexity of plant genomes unless we can identify transposable elements. Michelle’s work provides an invaluable road map that allows us to begin to untangle the diversity of all of the genetic elements that make up the maize genome.”

Original Article: Tracking Down the Jumping Genes of Maize


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