Agronomy and Horticulture Department



James C. Schnable

Date of this Version



PLoS ONE (2011) 6(3): e17855. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017855.


Copyright 2011, the authors. Open access, Creative Commons Attribution license.


Not all genes are created equal. Despite being supported by sequence conservation and expression data, knockout homozygotes of many genes show no visible effects, at least under laboratory conditions. We have identified a set of maize (Zea mays L.) genes which have been the subject of a disproportionate share of publications recorded at MaizeGDB. We manually anchored these ‘‘classical’’ maize genes to gene models in the B73 reference genome, and identified syntenic orthologs in other grass genomes. In addition to proofing the most recent version 2 maize gene models, we show that a subset of these genes, those that were identified by morphological phenotype prior to cloning, are retained at syntenic locations throughout the grasses at much higher levels than the average expressed maize gene, and are preferentially found on the maize1 subgenome even with a duplicate copy is still retained on the opposite subgenome. Maize1 is the subgenome that experienced less gene loss following the whole genome duplication in maize lineage 5–12 million years ago and genes located on this subgenome tend to be expressed at higher levels in modern maize. Links to the web based software that supported our syntenic analyses in the grasses should empower further research and support teaching involving the history of maize genetic research. Our findings exemplify the concept of ‘‘grasses as a single genetic system,’’ where what is learned in one grass may be applied to another.