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Plant scientists use big data to map stress responses in corn


Plant scientists at Iowa State University have completed a new study that describes the genetic pathways at work when corn plants respond to stress brought on by heat, a step that could lead to crops better capable of withstanding stress.

The findings, published as a "large-scale biology" paper in the academic journal The Plant Cell, map the stress response detected by the endoplasmic reticulum, an organelle in cells of corn seedlings. The research was a multilevel study in which the scientists analyzed massive datasets to account for the expression of tens of thousands of plant genes. The size of the study required a multi-institutional effort that included scientists at Iowa State, Michigan State and the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

A better understanding of how corn plants cope with stress can help plant breeders engineer crops that can better tolerate and continue to produce under stressful conditions, said Stephen Howell, a Distinguished Professor of genetics, development and cell biology and senior author of the study.