Just in time for me to put together my worksheet for Thursday! I’ve managed to work in the CAL gene, which I talked about last week in my discussion of Cruciferous vegetables:
Cauliflower plants (and broccoflower plants) have broken copies of the CAL gene, which (when it isn’t broken) is helps the plant decide to switch from producing stems that were bear flowers to the flowers themselves. Without a functional version of CAL, cauliflowers just keep making denser and denser stems, producing the distinctive heads of cauliflower. If you have journal access, you can read more about the CAL gene at this science paper: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.7824951
I also threw in a question that uses the shrunken2 gene (one of the two most common genes that convert normal starchy corn into sweet corn). From the question in question:
Corn kernels without a working copy of the shrunken2 gene can’t convert very much of the sugar provided by photosynthesis in the leaves of the corn plant into starch. Instead, sugar itself accumulates in the kernel making the corn taste quite sweet.
When sugary corn kernels are dried, they shrivel up, while starchy ones remain relatively round and smooth. This has to do with the fact that sugars are water soluble while starch is not. So, as I understand it, corn kernels with more sugar are also a greater percentage water than corn kernels that are made mostly of starch.
The mutant form of shrunken2 was identified by John Laughnan, a maize geneticist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The story of the discovery as told in Maize Genetics and Breeding in the 20th Century by Peter Peterson and Angelo Bianchi:
According to historical sources [E.H.C.] [This is Edward H. Coe], serendipity played a part in a practical discovery (1953) from which many sweet corn worshipers now benefit. Soaking and chewing upon a corn seed to aid in concentration is a pervasive but minor indiscretion in the profession, generally conducted surreptitiously and especially embraced when seeking rare mutations or recombinants. Muttering, so it is said, “that’s shrunken, too,” and “super, it’s sweet!” [John Laughnan] came upon the now popular and widely grown, high-sugar Super Sweet type. When next the reader has a table ear with butter (or better, corn oil margarine) and salt, it might be gratefully remembered that the sh2 factor is so close to A1 that it was originally attractive as a marker in intensive genetic analysis-else it might yet be only a phenotypic curiosity.
One of the things that sucks about moving into the area of comparative grass genomics is losing of the feeling of following in the footsteps of generations of maize geneticists. The maize community has, for lack of a better word, a sense of history.