Washington, March 3 (ANI): A plant geneticist has doubled the action of a gene in a corn plant, resulting in a variant that has enormous potential for biomass.
The gene's effect was doubled by University of Illinois plant geneticist Stephen Moose.
The gene known as Glossy 15 was originally described for its role in giving corn seedlings a waxy coating that acts like a sun screen for the young plant. Without Glossy 15, seedling leaves instead appear shiny and glossy in sunlight.
Further studies have shown that the main function of Glossy15 is to slow down shoot maturation.
Moose wondered what would happen if they turned up the action of this gene.
"What happens is that you get bigger plants, possibly because they're more sensitive to the longer days of summer. We put a corn gene back in the corn and increased its activity. So, it makes the plant slow down and gets much bigger at the end of the season," he said.
"It yields corn that would make good silage, due to a greater number of leaves and larger stalk, which could also make it a good energy crop," he added.
"The first time I did this, I thought, well, maybe the seeds just didn't get pollinated very well, so I hand pollinated these ears to make sure. I found that just like the shoot, seed development is also slower and they just don't make it all the way to the end with a plump kernel," Moose said.
He explained that the energy to make the seed goes instead into the stalk and leaves.
"We had been working with this gene for awhile. We thought there would be more wax on the leaves and there was. But we also got this other benefit, that it's a lot bigger," he added.
Moose tested his hypothesis with other corn lines and the effect was the same.
"We essentially can make any corn variety bigger with this gene. And it can be done in one cross and we know exactly which gene does it," he said.
For this sugar corn plant to become commercialized, it would have to get government approval, but Moose said that this is about as safe a gene as you can get.
"It's a gene that's already in the corn - all we did was to put an extra copy in that amps it up," he said. (ANI)