All of my research in undergrad was on corn.
All of it.
For classes, for labs, every lab– corn. We were basically watching a gene become ‘irreducibly complex’ in shoot apical meristems… I mean, it was definitely cool, its just that I couldnt eat corn for years (Im over it now, but I dunno how people like Anastasia do it hehe!).
But now that we have sequenced the whole genome of a few strains of corn, I am now MADLY IN LOVE WITH CORN AGAIN!!
ITS AN EVILUTIONARY POWERHOUSE!!!
Okay, there is a TON of data here, so Im going to focus on one thing: transposable elements.
When I talk about these things in humans, Im normally talking about ERVs, LINEs, SINEs, and such– These are Class I transposable elements, retrotransposons. They operate by a copy/paste mechanism.
But then there is another group– Class II, DNA transposons. They dont copy/paste, they cut/paste, leaving little nucleotide repeat ‘footprints’ after they move.
The human genome is made up of about 45% of this stuff.
A full 75.6% is Class I retrotransposons! Thats so cool!
What does all this transposable-gobbledegook mean? All these repeating nucleotides means there are lots of opportunities for the DNA to accidentally line up wrong, leading to lots and lots and lots of ways corn can duplicate, delete, and rearrange its genome!
The strain of corn they sequenced is B73 (Iowa corn, all I know). When they compared it to another strain, Missouri-17 (Missouri corn, I am a genius, :P) check this out:
The researchers also uncovered evidence that maize strains are creating new genes and losing others. For example, at least 180 of B73’s genes are missing from another strain of corn known as Missouri 17 or Mo17. In fact, thousands of pieces of DNA found in one strain are completely missing from the other, Schnable and colleagues report in one of the 10 companion articles published in PLoS Genetics. This degree of structural variation is not seen in any other plant, animal or fungus studied so far, says Schnable.
Missouri inbred corn vs Iowa inbred corn and ‘thousands of pieces of DNA found in one strain are completely missing from the other’!! Could you imagine that in humans?? If you had 180 different genes doing different stuff that doesnt exist in my genome???
Cant wait to hear more from the plant bio folks (leave links in my comments, please!)!!!