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Exploiting SPL Genes To Improve Maize Plant Architecture Tailored For High-density Planting

Hongbin Wei, Yongping Zhao, Y. Xie, H. Wang
Published 2018 · Biology, Medicine

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Maize (Zea mays ssp. mays) is an agronomically important crop and also a classical genetic model for studying the regulation of plant architecture formation, which is a critical determinant of grain yield. Since the 1930s, increasing planting density has been a major contributing factor to the >7-fold increase in maize grain yield per unit land area in the USA, which is accompanied by breeding and utilization of cultivars characterized by high-density-tolerant plant architecture, including decreased ear height, lodging resistance, more upright leaves, reduced tassel branch number, and reduced anthesis-silking interval (ASI). Recent studies demonstrated that phytochrome-mediated red/far-red light signaling pathway and the miR156/SQUAMOSA-PROMOTER BINDING PROTEIN-LIKE (SPL) regulatory module co-ordinately regulate the shade avoidance response and diverse aspects of plant architecture in responding to shading in Arabidopsis. The maize genome contains 30 ZmSPL genes, and 18 of them are predicted as direct targets of zma-miR156s. Accumulating evidence indicates that ZmSPL genes play important roles in regulating maize flowering time, plant/ear height, tilling, leaf angle, tassel and ear architecture, and grain size and shape. Finally, we discuss ways to exploit maize SPL genes and downstream targets for improving maize plant architecture tailored for high-density planting.
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