Integration of Genomics and Phenomics to Translate Genetic Diversity in Maize Into Crop Improvement
This group is broadly focused on exploring maize genotypic diversity and relating that diversity to phenotypic diversity to identify genetic elements underlying important phenotypic traits (i.e. yield, yield component traits, nutritional quality). Many studies have been conducted to explore the relationship between genome level variants and phenotypic traits through quantitative trait loci mapping and association mapping. However, these variants can only explain a portion of the observed phenotypic diversity. These researchers hypothesize that all or more of the phenotypic variation within a population can be explained by including genomic content variation and transcript abundance variation. To this end, the group is working to characterize the maize pan genome, elucidate the origin of dispensable genes, and understand the effect of core and dispensable genes on phenotypic variation. In maize, a large portion of yield improvement obtained in last 80 years is attributable to the development and deployment of hybrids. Understanding molecular mechanisms underlying heterosis can have a major effect on improving yield beyond what has been realized to date. Understanding the basis of heterosis can also be valuable in new species, where heterotic groups are not well defined, as they are in maize, to define heterotic groups and efficiently categorize germplasm. Thus, in addition to understanding the genetic and regulatory elements underlying phenotypic traits in inbred lines, the group is interested in exploring the genetic basis of heterosis through modeling of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms and their interactions.
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