Angel Jung Rose Hills
Characterization of ms32, a bHLH Gene Required for Tapetum Development in Maize
Increasing crop yields has always been a global issue. One of the largest studies of domestic hunger, Hunger in American 2010, reported, hunger is increasing at an alarming rate in the United States (Feeding America). My research this summer focuses on identifying a bHLH gene, ms32, which promotes fertility in maize (corn), the most widely grown grain crop. As the anther – the male reproductive organ in plants – matures during early development, five distinct layers are formed and required for meiosis to function properly. One of the five layers, the tapetal layer, is crucial for the development of pollen grains, which are the male gametes, and is regulated by the ms32 gene. A mutant in this gene causes excess cell division in the tapetal layer, causing pollen mother cells to collapse, rendering the plant sterile. A better understanding of this bHLH gene will prevent additional division in the layer and allow for fertile plants.