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The role of barren stalk1 in the architecture of maize


The architecture of higher plants is established through the activity of lateral meristems—small groups of stem cells formed during vegetative and reproductive development. Lateral meristems generate branches and inflorescence structures, which define the overall form of a plant1,2,3, and are largely responsible for the evolution of different plant architectures3. Here, we report the isolation of the barren stalk1 gene, which encodes a non-canonical basic helix–loop–helix protein required for the initiation of all aerial lateral meristems in maize. barren stalk1 represents one of the earliest genes involved in the patterning of maize inflorescences, and, together with the teosinte branched1 gene4, it regulates vegetative lateral meristem development. The architecture of maize has been a major target of selection for early agriculturalists and modern farmers, because it influences harvesting, breeding strategies and mechanization. By sampling nucleotide diversity in the barren stalk1 region, we show that two haplotypes entered the maize gene pool from its wild progenitor, teosinte, and that only one was incorporated throughout modern inbreds, suggesting that barren stalk1 was selected for agronomic purposes.

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Figure 1: Effects of ba1 mutations on maize development.
Figure 2: barren stalk1 encodes a non-canonical bHLH protein.
Figure 3: barren stalk1 expression by in situ hybridization.
Figure 4: barren stalk1 as a candidate for QTL 3L.


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We thank C. J. Whipple for the pictures in Figs 1m and 3b, c, and for discussions; M. Zanis and S. Jeong for critical reading of the manuscript; M. J. Galli for suggestions on quantitative PCR; E. York for assistance with SEMs at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Analytical Facility; and A. Tsai, E. Durbin and D. Nakamura for technical help. This research was supported by NSF and NIH grants to R.J.S. and J.F.D. A.G. was also supported by MIUR, Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Universitá e della Ricerca, Italy.

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Correspondence to Robert J. Schmidt.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Data

We provide further details about the CAPS analysis on the 86 inbred lines. (DOC 20 kb)

Supplementary Methods

We describe in detail the isolation of new ba1 alleles, the amplification of regions a, b, c and the CAPS marker analysis on the 86 inbred lines analyzed for haplotype I and II. (DOC 22 kb)

Supplementary Table 1

Supplementary Table 1 is part of the Methods section and lists all the maize and teosinte individuals sequenced at the barren stalk1 gene with the corresponding GenBank Accessions Numbers. (DOC 44 kb)

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Gallavotti, A., Zhao, Q., Kyozuka, J. et al. The role of barren stalk1 in the architecture of maize. Nature 432, 630–635 (2004).

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