Mar. 28, 2002 COLUMBIA, Mo. -- For members of the Maize Mapping Project, the proverbial harvest time has arrived. After almost four years of research to create an integrated Maize Genome map, the University of Missouri-Columbia researchers unveiled the first fruits of their labor this past weekend to more than 400 scientists at the 2002 Maize Genetics Conference in Orlando, Fla.
"When we began, our goal was to develop a map that fully integrated the genetic and physical maps for each of the ten chromosomes of maize," said Karen Cone, associate project director and associate professor of biological sciences. "Plant scientists worldwide now have a new resource they can use for gene discovery, studies of gene functions and comparative genomics. The map will allow us to learn more about the genome and ultimately will benefit all basic plant research, the corn industry and the consuming public. Future benefits of this research include increased crop yields, reduced use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, and better quality food."
Cone likened the creation of the integrated map to piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. The genetic map component is analogous to the puzzle's edge pieces. Using these pieces, the puzzle's frame is constructed, which gives a foundation for the interior pieces, which are analogous to the physical map component. The end result is a completed picture of the Maize Genome.
"The value of this integrated map is that the position of a gene or genetic trait on the genetic map can be cross-referenced immediately to its corresponding location on the physical map and vice versa," Cone said. "For example, if a plant breeder has localized a disease-resistance trait to a region on the genetic map, they need only cross-reference to the physical map to find its approximate location at the DNA level. In addition, this resource will provide for much greater efficiency in mapping and identifying the 30,000 to 50,000 genes of maize."
The National Science Foundation funded the Maize Mapping Project with a five-year, $11 million grant in 1998, one of the first grants NSF awarded through a competitive program on plant genomics related to economically important crops. The project - which is a collaboration among researchers at MU's Departments of Agronomy and Biological Sciences, Clemson University and the University of Georgia - is on schedule to be completed in the fall of 2003.
The integrated map can be accessed online at http://www.maizemap.org.
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