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Identifying the Genes that Control Unisexual Flower Development in Maize

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Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Department of Project: 
Department of Biology
Project Description: 

This proposal describes a next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based approach to identify genes that control unisexual flower development in Zea mays (maize). Maize develops separate male flowers in the tassel and female flowers in the ear (Klein etal., 2018). The development of unisexual flowers is important for hybrid crop production - separate tassel and ear flowers allow humans to very easily make controlled crosses (Phillips, 2010).  Many cereal crops related to maize, like rice and wheat, have unisexual flowers, hampering hybrid seed production (Kellogg, 2015). In addition, the same process that leads to the development of maize flowers in the tassel - carpel suppression - also occurs in half of all ear flowers, effectively halving the number of seeds a maize ear could produce (Cheng et al., 1983).  Thus, modifying the genes that control carpel suppression using CRISPR/Cas9 genome engineering could allow crop engineers to generate unisexual flowers in other grass crops, and to improve yield in maize (Gao, 2018).

Agriculture topics: 
Field Crops