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The evolution of apical dominance in maize


The domestication of crop plants has often involved an increase in apical dominance (the concentration of resources in the main stem of the plant and a corresponding suppression of axillary branches)1. A striking example of this phenomenon is seen in maize (Zea mays spp. mays), which exhibits a profound increase in apical dominance compared with its probable wild ancestor, teosinte (Zea mays ssp. parviglumis)2. Previous research has identified the teosinte branched1 (tb1) gene as a major contributor to this evolutionary change in maize3. We have cloned tb1 by transposon tagging and show here that it encodes a protein with homology to the cycloidea gene of snapdragon4. The pattern of tb1 expression and the morphology of tb1 mutant plants suggest that tb1 acts both to repress the growth of axillary organs and to enable the formation of female inflorescences. The maize allele of tb1 is expressed at twice the level of the teosinte allele, suggesting that gene regulatory changes underlie the evolutionary divergence of maize from teosinte.

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Doebley, J., Stec, A. & Hubbard, L. The evolution of apical dominance in maize. Nature 386, 485–488 (1997).

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