Genetics of Storage Protein in Maize

  • C. Y. Tsai


Cereals provide a major portion of the calories and protein in human diets in many developing countries. Unfortunately, the storage proteins of cereal grains are of poor nutritional quality for human beings and monogastric animals. This is due largely to low levels of the essential amino acids lysine and tryptophan in the proteins. The discovery of the maize mutant opaque-2 (o2), which increases the relative content of lysine in the endosperm by reducing zein proteins (Mertz et al. 1964), has stimulated great interest both in the investigation of the mechanisms that produce these changes and in the selection and utilization of high-lysine mutants in maize and other cereal grains. Consequently, several mutant genes in maize, barley, and sorghum have been found to produce an effect similar to that of the o2 mutant. Changes in the amino acid and protein composition of these mutants and efforts to breed for improved nutritional quality of cereal grains have been reviewed recently by Axtell (1981), Nelson (1979a, 1979b), and Wall and Paulis (1978). These high-lysine mutants in maize, sorghum, and barley, while increasing lysine content, all have reduced seed size and grain yield. Studies with maize indicates that zein (prolamin) is the major factor influencing kernel weight, grain yield, and protein nutritional quality (Tsai et al. 1978a, 1980).


Storage Protein Normal Kernel Quality Protein Maize Maize Endosperm Endosperm Protein 
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Copyright information

© The Avi Publishing Company, Inc. 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Y. Tsai
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Botany and Plant PathologyPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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