NewsDevelopmental Biology

Corn: A Lot of Change From a Little DNA

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Science  28 Jun 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5270, pp. 1873
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5270.1873


Nashville, Tennessee—Corn may be the domesticated version of the bushy and inedible weed called teosinte, but you wouldn't know it to look at the two plants. Corn ears, for instance, are covered with hundreds of soft, edible kernels, while teosinte flowers are studded with just a dozen or so, all firmly encased in armor. At the national meeting of the Society for Developmental Biology here 3 weeks ago, however, scientists reported that the change from inedible to edible could come from mutations in just one small stretch of teosinte DNA. Not only does the work support the growing notion that minor genetic changes can result in large evolutionary leaps, but researchers suggest it may even point toward a way of engineering similar improvements in other cereal or grain plants.