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Functional And Genomic Analyses Of The Maize Yabby Transcription Factors Drooping Leaf1 And Drooping Leaf2

Joshua Strable
Published 2015 · Biology

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Leaf and floral architectures contribute significantly to crop yield. Leaf architecture, i.e., leaf length, width and angle, defines canopy architecture, which influences light penetration, photoassimilate production and overall yield. In the cereals, floral architecture defines the production and arrangement of the floral units that produce grain, directly impacting yield. A major challenge in plant biology is to understand what genetic factors regulate leaf and flower development, two seemingly disparate, but perhaps evolutionarily related structures, in the grasses. We discovered and characterized a novel maize (Zea mays spp. mays) mutant we named drooping leaf (drl), as acutely flaccid leaves lacked a functional midrib. In pistillate and staminate florets, drl mutants displayed ectopic inner-whorl organs. These mutant phenotypes were drastically enhanced by a modifier locus in the Mo17 inbred line. We cloned the underlying gene, drl1-R, and identified its paralogous enhancer, drl2-M, using positional cloning. The genes encode the maize CRABS CLAW co-ortholog, a putative transcriptional regulator with zinc-finger and YABBY domains. Our analysis suggests natural variation in Mo17 at the drl2 locus likely enhances the drl1 mutant phenotypes; similar alleles may exist in other diverse maize inbred lines. Genome wide association studies indicate the drl1 and drl2 loci are tightly linked to quantitative traits for leaf angle and width and internode length in the maize nested association mapping population. Expression analyses demonstrate drl1 and drl2 transcripts accumulate in lateral primordia, but not in vegetative or floral meristems. However, expression from the drl loci influences meristem activity, suggesting the drl genes function non-cell autonomously. Genetic interaction analyses with mutants that affect leaf and floral development demonstrate a requirement for the drl genes in the early establishment of leaf and floral
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