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Project Documentation & Protocols: Maize Gene Discovery Project: Education:
Linking Genes to Their Function

Contents: Maize Gene Discovery | The Challenge of Maize Genetics | Why Discover Maize Genes? | Finding Genes
Linking Genes to Function | Creating Databases | Building a Storehouse | Accomplishments | What's Next? | Glossary

While searching for genes, the Maize Gene Discovery Project (MGDP) also pursued two strategies for identifying gene function.


Phenotyping RescueMu plants

One approach involves carefully examining self-fertilized RescueMu plants at many stages of development, including the kernel, seedling, young adult, and floral stages (learn more). The researchers presume that genetic mutations cause any unusual traits (phenotypes) they observe. The MGDP researchers collect seeds from each plant (learn more about available seed stocks) and catalogue the phenotype information in PhenotypeDB, a searchable online database (learn more).

Before the MGDP created these mutant seed stocks, researchers would have to plant many fields of maize in hopes of finding a plant with a desired trait. Now, researchers interested in a particular trait can use PhenotypeDB to identify unusual mutants and buy seeds for only those plants. They can then grow the seeds into adulthood and conduct experiments to further our understanding of that specific trait or gene mutation.


Microarrays constructed of EST's and unique genes

The project's second approach to understanding maize gene function uses DNA microarrays. These tools enable researchers to see, on a single slide, which genes are active in a particular tissue sample. The MGDP has produced several microarrays spotted with thousands of the unique genes identified thus far. Researchers can purchase and use these slides to compare the active genes in different plant tissues (eg, kernel vs. leaf); at different developmental stages (eg., embryo vs. adult); in different genetic backgrounds; or in different environmental conditions (eg., drought vs. flood). (learn more about available microarrays).

Links: Microarrays Factsheet:

Katherine Miller, a freelance science writer, contributed the text for this page to the Maize Gene Discovery Project. You can reach her at .

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