Functional Genomics of Maize Chromatin Proteins

Enhance Economic Opportunities for Agricultural Producers
Research Year: 

Gene regulation is critical to plant growth and development. One important regulator of gene expression is chromatin structure, which refers to the manner in which the DNA is packaged in the nucleus of the cell. Little is known about the genes responsible for creating and maintaining chromatin structure in maize, or how alterations to this structure can alter gene expression and other biological phenomena.

Description of Action: 

In 2005 plant scientists from the UA and five other universities won a 4-year, multi-million dollar grant from the NSF to identify and study the function of all chromatin related proteins in corn, the nation's most important economic crop. The scientists are developing and characterizing mutants which will allow them to analyze features of plants that lack the proteins involved in chromatin structure and modification. The mutants are then studied to determine how chromatin structure, gene expression, and important genetically regulated processes are altered. More than 300 chromatin related genes have been identified in maize, and information about each gene has been made available to the public in a Web-based database. This information is readily accessible and has the potential to be utilized by thousands of researchers.

This project is expected to provide researchers with a deeper understanding of an important crop plant, and also to increase the understanding of chromatin level regulation of gene expression, which is a critical component of disease, growth, development, and silencing of introduced transgenes in plants, humans and other organisms.


In collaboration with scientists at other universities, researchers at the University of Arizona are generating 300 mutant lines for scientists around the world to use in their own research. Seventy lines were already available and in use in labs around the world by January 2006. To date there have been 19 requests from 16 different labs; in response, 272 packets of this material were sent to scientists for study. For example, these lines were used by two different laboratories to advance the understanding of UV response in maize (Casati et al., Plant Journal 2006).

Funding Agencies: 

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Conact Name: 
Vicki Chandler
Contact E-mail: 
Contact Address: 

The University of Arizona

P.O. Box 210036

Tucson, AZ 85721-0036

Tel. (520) 626-8725, FAX (520) 621-7186