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Researchers Reach Halfway Mark with Corn Gene Map

NEW YORK, March 21 - A project to develop an integrated genetic and physical map of the maize genome is roughly halfway done.

The integrated map will allow a gene or genetic trait to be cross referenced to a location on the physical map. It will also provide a template for mapping and identification of the roughly 30,000 to 50,000 genes in the maize genome.

Researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia presented the initial version of their corn genome map last weekend at the 2002 Maize Genetics Conference in Orlando, Fla.

"Plant scientists worldwide now have a new resource they can use for gene discovery, studies of gene functions and comparative genomics," said project co-director Karen Cone in a statement. Future benefits of this research include increased crop yields, reduced use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides and better quality food, he said.

The project was launched nearly four years ago but still has quite a way to go: The maize genome weighs in at 10 chromosomes and a whopping 2.5 billion base pairs.

By February, the team had created three BAC libraries representing roughly 27 genome equivalents. They've whittled the project down to just over 7,000 BAC contigs and 7,730 singles among 192,000 fingerprinted clones, and hope to reach 2,000 to 5,000 contigs by mid-2003.

The maize genome map project, a collaboration between the University of Missouri, Clemson University, and the University of Georgia, is funded by a five-year, $11 million National Science Foundation grant.

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