Genetic Analysis of Maize Root Development

Authored by: Frank Hochholdinger , Guenter Feix

Plant Roots

Print publication date:  April  2013
Online publication date:  April  2013

Print ISBN: 9781439846483
eBook ISBN: 9781439846490
Adobe ISBN:


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Although maize has been a favored object for genetic analyses since the 1920s (Coe 2001), a systematic genetic analysis of the underground root system has only been initiated in the last decade (reviewed in Hochholdinger et al. 2004a,b; Hochholdinger and Zimmermann 2008; Hochholdinger and Tuberosa 2009; Hochholdinger 2009). The genetic dissection of the complex root structure of monocotyledonous plants and its formation is largely hampered by the difficulty of observing versatile underground root systems. Furthermore, the tremendous plasticity of root formation and the significant influence of environmental changes on root system architecture complicate the identification of mutants in their natural habitat. Therefore, until the mid-1990s, only one maize root mutant, rt1 (Jenkins 1930), had been indirectly identified by its reduced lodging resistance associated with defects in shoot-borne root formation. In recent years, a set of monogenic mutants affecting different aspects of maize root development has been isolated (Wen and Schnable 1994; Hetz et al. 1996; Hochholdinger and Feix 1998a; Hochholdinger et al. 2001; Woll et al. 2005). Meanwhile, some of the affected genes have been cloned paving the way for elucidating the molecular basis of maize root formation (Wen et al. 2005; Taramino et al. 2007; Hochholdinger et al. 2008; von Behrens et al. 2011). For the identification and correct phenotypic assessment of such mutants, detailed knowledge of the structure and development of the root system was essential (cf. Feldman 1994; Kiesselbach 1999). As this aspect remains important for further mutant work, a short structural account of the root system of maize is given in the following text.

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