Somatic Karyotype Analysis of the Maize Genome Project
Our laboratory has developed a method for chromosome painting in maize. This procedure has allowed us to examine numerous issues about the maize genome. The diversity and homogenization mechanisms of repetitive DNA elements can now be investigated. It is now possible to visualize on the maize somatic chromosomes individual gene copies, single transgenes and single copies of transposable elements such as Activator, Suppressor-mutator and RescueMu.
Maize Minichromosome Project
Our laboratory has produced artificial chromosome platforms for maize. Such constructs should be useful for using maize as a factory for the inexpensive production of foreign proteins and as a means to introduce novel biochemical pathways to maize to confer new properties to the plant. This technology has the potential to engineer multiple new traits into crops for improved agricultural practices. From a basic standpoint, artificial constructs will allow investigators to produce designer synthetic chromosomes that will help them understand the minimum features required for function.
Maize Centromere Project
The Birchler lab studies the epigenetic basis of maize centromere function as part of a consortium to study the functional genomics of maize centromeres. Several examples of inactive centromeres have been found as well as several cases of de novo centromere formation on chromosomal fragments. These findings suggest that the underlying DNA sequences are neither necessary or sufficient to specify a centromere. We employ cytological and molecular analyses to understand the features of inactive and de novo centromeres. As part of this project we are developing whole chromosome exon paints for the maize karyotype.