Markers Get Glowing Report

Fluorescent markers are making corn sorting easier. Not only will they help show the differences in corn parts, but they could make a difference in research.

Kernels of corn are made up of three main parts: the plant embryo, the endosperm surrounding the embryo, and the hard outer pericarp. These different seed components are used in food, animal feed, and industrial products. Corn processors currently identify and measure different grain tissues usinga range of markers.

Now a group of researchers has created experimental corn lines with visible markers that can simplify sorting through these distinctive kernel tissues.

Geneticist Paul Scott works in the Agricultural Research Service Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit in Ames, IA. He has partnered with Iowa State University scientists Colin Shepherd, Nathalie Vignaux, Joan Peterson, and Lawrence Johnson to develop tissue markers for transgenic corn lines using green fluorescent protein (GFP). GFP, first isolated in a single species of jellyfish, has since been cloned and used safely in a wide range of scientific investigations in plants and animals.

The researchers succeeded in determining GFP fluorescence levels for the pericarp, endosperm, and embryo. Even more importantly, they were also able to easily identify the mix of tissues in each — a process that typically is expensive and time consuming.

These results indicate that transgenic lines of corn containing GFP could be used to optimize existing fractionation methods and improve processing techniques. They can also support a variety of corn-related research projects, including studies on nitrogen use and grain development.

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