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January 21, 2006
Gene controls cereal grass architecture

A gene in cereal grasses plays an important role in controlling plant architecture, a team of U.S. scientists reported.

Cereal grasses such as rice, wheat and maize -- which provide most of the world`s food -- are borne on axillary branches, whose branching patterns dictate most of the variation in form seen in the grasses.

Maize produces two types of inflorescence -- the tassel, male pollen-bearing flowers; and the ear, female flowers and site of seed or kernel development. The tassel forms from the shoot apical meristem after the production of a defined number of leaves, whereas ears form at the tips of compact axillary branches. Normal maize ears are unbranched, and tassels have long branches only at their base.

The ramosa2, or ra2, mutant of maize has increased branching of inflorescences relative to wild type plants, suggesting that the ra2 gene plays an important role in controlling inflorescence architecture.

The findings -- by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, University of California at Berkeley, Iowa State University, the University of Illinois and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York -- are published in The Plant Cell.

Source : Monsters and Critics