Plant Molecular Biology

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 323–336 | Cite as

Transcriptional characterization of an α-zein gene cluster in maize

  • Chang-Nong Liu
  • Irwin Rubenstein
Research Article


A cluster of five α-zein subfamily 4 (α-zein SF4) genes are present in a 56 kb region of the maize W22 genome. Two types of α-zein SF4 genes are in the cluster. One of the genes, termed a type 1 (T1) α-zein SF4 gene, contains no early in-frame stop codons. Four of the genes, termed type 2 (T2) α-zein SF4 genes, contain one or two early in-frame stop codons. The base sequence of the T1 α-zein SF4 gene is similar (>90%) to the sequences of any of the four T2 α-zein SF4 genes. However, their sequences differ markedly at distances greater than -875 bp upstream from the translation initiation codon of the α-zein coding region. This region of dissimilarity is well inside the functional 5′-flanking region for the genes since a 1.8 kb transcript is initiated in this region and the sequences of the T2 α-zein SF4 genes are similar in this region. Two sizes of mRNA transcripts, 1.8 kb and 0.9 kb, were detected in a gene specific manner for 4 of the 5 genes in this α-zein SF4 gene cluster. One of the T2 α-zein SF4 genes had only the 0.9 kb transcript. The RNA level for the 0.9 kb transcript of the T1 α-zein SF4 gene was 5- to 10-fold higher than the transcript levels of any of the T2 α-zein SF4 genes. In each case, the amount of the 0.9 kb transcript detected was at least 5-fold higher than the amount of the 1.8 kb transcript. A cDNA clone with a sequence identical to a T2 α-zein SF4 gene was isolated, providing the first direct evidence for the transcription of T2 α-zein genes containing early in-frame stop codon(s) in maize endosperm.

Kew words

gene cluster maize multigene family transcriptional regulation zein early in-frame stop codon 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chang-Nong Liu
    • 1
  • Irwin Rubenstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant Biology and Plant Molecular Genetics InstituteUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA

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