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Researchers Discover Gene that Helps Maize Adapt to High Elevations and Cold Temperatures
Wednesday, 2022/07/27 | 08:21:05

North Carolina State University researchers have shown that the maize gene HPC1 modulates certain chemical processes that contribute to flowering time, and originated from “teosinte mexicana,” a precursor to modern-day corn that grows wild in the highlands of Mexico.


Maize grown in higher altitudes, like the highlands of Mexico, needs special accommodations to grow successfully. Colder temperatures in mountainous regions put maize at a slight disadvantage compared with maize grown at lower elevations and higher temperatures. At high elevations and colder temperatures, maize needs to accumulate heat, taking three times longer to grow than at lower elevations. In corn grown in low elevations, the HPC1 gene breaks down phospholipids that in other species have been shown to bind to important proteins that accelerate flowering time. In higher elevations, though, the gene misfires, but to the benefit of highland maize.


HPC1 breaks down phospholipids that in other species have been shown to bind to important proteins that accelerate flowering time. The research team used CRISPR-Cas9 to develop a mutant and confirmed the metabolic function of HPC1. In the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers showed results of vast experiments throughout the lowlands and highlands in Mexico, where the highland version of the gene was present. They found that maize with the highlands version of the gene flowered one day earlier than plants without the gene. Meanwhile, maize grown in the lowlands with the highlands version of the gene flowered one day later than plants without that gene version.


For more details about this study, read the news article in NC State University News.


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