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1.  Maize ARGOS1 (ZAR1) transgenic alleles increase hybrid maize yield 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2013;65(1):249-260.
A single transgene ARGOS1 positively impacts yield of field-grown hybrid maize. Two predominant alleles from elite hybrid breeding germplasm differed in transgene efficacy, but both alleles combined in a transgenic stack outperformed each alone, consistent with a single-locus heterotic effect
Crop improvement for yield and drought tolerance is challenging due to the complex genetic nature of these traits and environmental dependencies. This study reports that transgenic over-expression of Zea mays ARGOS1 (ZAR1) enhanced maize organ growth, grain yield, and drought-stress tolerance. The ZAR1 transgene exhibited environmental interactions, with yield increase under Temperate Dry and yield reduction under Temperate Humid or High Latitude environments. Native ZAR1 allele variation associated with drought-stress tolerance. Two founder alleles identified in the mid-maturity germplasm of North America now predominate in Pioneer’s modern breeding programme, and have distinct proteins, promoters and expression patterns. These two major alleles show heterotic group partitioning, with one predominant in Pioneer’s female and the other in the male heterotic groups, respectively. These two alleles also associate with favourable crop performance when heterozygous. Allele-specific transgene testing showed that, of the two alleles discussed here, each allele differed in their impact on yield and environmental interactions. Moreover, when transgenically stacked together the allelic pair showed yield and environmental performance advantages over either single allele, resembling heterosis effects. This work demonstrates differences in transgenic efficacy of native alleles and the differences reflect their association with hybrid breeding performance.
PMCID: PMC3883295  PMID: 24218327
Maize hybrid; native allele variation; transgene by environment interaction; transgene efficacy; heterosis; ZAR1; Zea mays.
2.  Structure and expression of the maize (Zea mays L.) SUN-domain protein gene family: evidence for the existence of two divergent classes of SUN proteins in plants 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:269.
The nuclear envelope that separates the contents of the nucleus from the cytoplasm provides a surface for chromatin attachment and organization of the cortical nucleoplasm. Proteins associated with it have been well characterized in many eukaryotes but not in plants. SUN (Sad1p/Unc-84) domain proteins reside in the inner nuclear membrane and function with other proteins to form a physical link between the nucleoskeleton and the cytoskeleton. These bridges transfer forces across the nuclear envelope and are increasingly recognized to play roles in nuclear positioning, nuclear migration, cell cycle-dependent breakdown and reformation of the nuclear envelope, telomere-led nuclear reorganization during meiosis, and karyogamy.
We found and characterized a family of maize SUN-domain proteins, starting with a screen of maize genomic sequence data. We characterized five different maize ZmSUN genes (ZmSUN1-5), which fell into two classes (probably of ancient origin, as they are also found in other monocots, eudicots, and even mosses). The first (ZmSUN1, 2), here designated canonical C-terminal SUN-domain (CCSD), includes structural homologs of the animal and fungal SUN-domain protein genes. The second (ZmSUN3, 4, 5), here designated plant-prevalent mid-SUN 3 transmembrane (PM3), includes a novel but conserved structural variant SUN-domain protein gene class. Mircroarray-based expression analyses revealed an intriguing pollen-preferred expression for ZmSUN5 mRNA but low-level expression (50-200 parts per ten million) in multiple tissues for all the others. Cloning and characterization of a full-length cDNA for a PM3-type maize gene, ZmSUN4, is described. Peptide antibodies to ZmSUN3, 4 were used in western-blot and cell-staining assays to show that they are expressed and show concentrated staining at the nuclear periphery.
The maize genome encodes and expresses at least five different SUN-domain proteins, of which the PM3 subfamily may represent a novel class of proteins with possible new and intriguing roles within the plant nuclear envelope. Expression levels for ZmSUN1-4 are consistent with basic cellular functions, whereas ZmSUN5 expression levels indicate a role in pollen. Models for possible topological arrangements of the CCSD-type and PM3-type SUN-domain proteins are presented.
PMCID: PMC3017857  PMID: 21143845
3.  Maize Global Transcriptomics Reveals Pervasive Leaf Diurnal Rhythms but Rhythms in Developing Ears Are Largely Limited to the Core Oscillator 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e12887.
Plant diurnal rhythms are vital environmental adaptations to coordinate internal physiological responses to alternating day-night cycles. A comprehensive view of diurnal biology has been lacking for maize (Zea mays), a major world crop.
A photosynthetic tissue, the leaf, and a non-photosynthetic tissue, the developing ear, were sampled under natural field conditions. Genome-wide transcript profiling was conducted on a high-density 105 K Agilent microarray to investigate diurnal rhythms.
In both leaves and ears, the core oscillators were intact and diurnally cycling. Maize core oscillator genes are found to be largely conserved with their Arabidopsis counterparts. Diurnal gene regulation occurs in leaves, with some 23% of expressed transcripts exhibiting a diurnal cycling pattern. These transcripts can be assigned to over 1700 gene ontology functional terms, underscoring the pervasive impact of diurnal rhythms on plant biology. Considering the peak expression time for each diurnally regulated gene, and its corresponding functional assignment, most gene functions display temporal enrichment in the day, often with distinct patterns, such as dawn or midday preferred, indicating that there is a staged procession of biological events undulating with the diurnal cycle. Notably, many gene functions display a bimodal enrichment flanking the midday photosynthetic maximum, with an initial peak in mid-morning followed by another peak during the afternoon/evening. In contrast to leaves, in developing ears as few as 47 gene transcripts are diurnally regulated, and this set of transcripts includes primarily the core oscillators. In developing ears, which are largely shielded from light, the core oscillator therefore is intact with little outward effect on transcription.
PMCID: PMC2944807  PMID: 20886102

Results 1-3 (3)