My first publication can now be viewed at the Theoretical and Applied Genetics (aka TAG) website. I’m the second of three authors of Wide variability in kernel composition, seed characteristics, and zein profiles among diverse maize inbreds, landraces, and teosinte. Sherry Flint-Garcia, the 1st author on this paper, is a young scientist already well known in maize genetics and a pleasure to work with.

My role was to collect and analyze data on the seed storage proteins (aka zeins) in maize inbreds, landraces, and teosintes. The similarity within the groups and differences across the groups is just amazing. Studies such as this one show just how important it is to maintain populations of crop relatives, if not for any other reason than as a source of genes for breeding.

Here’s the conclusion from the zeins part of the paper (emphasis mine):

Given that various zein proteins have different amino acid compositions, and our observation that several novel zeins accumulate in teosinte and not in landraces or inbred lines (Fig. 4; Supplemental Fig. 1), this study suggests that teosinte may potentially contribute genes for improvement of amino acid content as previously suggested (Swarup et al. 1995; Wang et al. 2008) or demonstrated with ssp. mexicana (Swarup et al. 1995; Wang et al. 2008). Many novel peaks were observed in the gamma region of the teosinte chromatographs (Supplemental Fig. 3). Further studies are needed to determine the amino acid sequence and nutritional value of the novel zein proteins. If these novel peaks are found to have potential nutritional value (i.e., increased methionine or cysteine content), genetic studies will be required to elucidate their gene sequence and regulation. In addition, there were differences in abundance of known zeins between teosinte and the other germplasm groups. Therefore, teosinte may be valuable in genetic studies attempting to define the regulation of the beta or gamma zein proteins.

If you’d like to learn more, but don’t want to read the whole paper, you might be interested in my poster for the 2009 Maize Genetics Conference: Characterizing alcohol soluble proteins in teosinte and tripsacum seeds (pdf). It covers many of the same ideas that were presented in the paper, but in a shortened easy-to-read format.



  1. Felicidades!

    It shouldn’t be too long before I get something published, then we’ll be even. Wait a second, your name might end up on the list in that publication, and you’ll still be ahead. Curses! 🙂

  2. Thanks 🙂 I’m really happy – it feels like all my work is actually going somewhere.

    Karl, did you guys want me to do any data analysis for the traces?

  3. TAG! Congratulations! I love these papers that look back at ancestral populations… I know in my crop (strawberry) there’s so much potential out there in the wild relatives, but nobody has been willing (or able) to make the investment to really capitalize on it fully, although there’s been some cool work done.

    Hopefully this is the start of a long and fruitful publishing career… I did publish a couple of things in my day (sounds like a million years ago, but really more like two), but the closest I ever came to TAG was a rejection…(which we deserved–I think we kind of overshot).

    Having gone into industry, I find it’s weird to have the constant drumbeat of "Publish! Publish! Publish!" that was always in the background in academia suddenly disappear. I’m having fun staying involved (two book chapters and a review this year, and hopefully an actual research paper by years end, plus being a reviewer on a couple things) without the pressure to actually do anything besides what I feel like committing to. I do feel a little conflicted at times about not publishing results, though. It seems almost mean to have the answers I know my former colleagues are looking for and not tell them.

    How much longer do you have in grad school? Theoretically, anyway? (I know nobody can ever really answer that question until the very end..)

  4. Thank you, everyone, for the congrats. I am feeling pretty pleased with myself, and I’m looking forward to the experiments I’m planning next.

    I’m theoretically in grad school until 2011, hopefully early 2011 – but who knows. After that, it’s a bigger mystery. I enjoy science communication so much that I’m considering public policy – but frankly I’m not sure how to get into it. Probably the next step is a concurrent Post Doc and Masters in Public Policy.

    PS: Karl, if we end up with both our names on a publication, I will consider that a great success of communal blogging!

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