Maize Microarray Project: A Tool for Crop Research and Improvement

Enhance Economic Opportunities for Agricultural Producers
Research Year: 

Maize is one of the most economically important cereal crops and is grown worldwide with cultivars that are adapted to a wide variety of growing conditions and climates. Considerable interest exists in developing optimal tools and technologies for global analysis of gene expression in maize. These measurements can provide the basis not only for understanding the ways in which regulation of gene expression controls plant development, and responses of the plant to biotic and abiotic stimuli, but also for the rational design of strategies to improve crop yield and quality.

Description of Action: 

Plant scientists from the University of Arizona and two other research institutions won a three-year, $3.6 million grant in 2003 to develop a gene expression microarray for maize and develop an online relational database (Zeamage) for curation and dissemination of all gene expression data associated with the gene expression microarray. A maize expression array was developed and is being distributed to the worldwide maize research community using a cost-recovery model. As of December 2005 the array contained 57,452 genes. A project website ( has been developed that contains all associated project information and web-based tools for data submission. The website also houses the Zeamage relational database, which allows access to array data that has been deposited by array users. Additional tools have been developed that assist array users in experimental design and data analysis. Four workshops to train array users have been held and additional workshops are planned.


In the 18 months that maize expression arrays have been available to the research community, a total of 1,940 arrays (in the form of slide sets) have been sent to 70 research groups in the United States, England, Mexico, Italy, China, Australia, Venezuela and Switzerland. Maize expression arrays are being used to study gene expression in a diverse group of research areas including nitrogen utilization; root growth under drought, water and phosphate stress; seed and pollen development; photosynthesis; aluminum stress in roots, maize ear, pollen and tassel development; and hybrid vigor. Data generated from these expression profiling experiments is available to all interested researchers immediately upon deposit into the Zeamage database. Insights gained from this approach to understanding gene expression will provide deeper insights to understanding maize growth and development and may eventually lead to improvements in crop productivity.

Funding Agencies: 

National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program

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