BARREN STALK FASTIGIATE1 is an at-hook protein required for the formation of maize ears

Andrea Gallavotti, Simon Malcomber, Craig Gaines, Sharon Stanfield, Clinton Whipple, Elizabeth Kellogg, Robert J. Schmidta

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70 Scopus citations


Ears are the seed-bearing inflorescences of maize (Zea mays) plants and represent a crucial component of maize yield. The first step in the formation of ears is the initiation of axillary meristems in the axils of developing leaves. In the classic maize mutant barren stalk fastigiate1 (baf1), first discovered in the 1950s, ears either do not form or, if they do, are partially fused to the main stalk. We positionally cloned Baf1 and found that it encodes a transcriptional regulator containing an AT-hook DNA binding motif. Single coorthologs of Baf1 are found in syntenic regions of brachypodium (Brachypodium distachyon), rice (Oryza sativa), and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), suggesting that the gene is likely present in all cereal species. Protein- protein interaction assays suggest that BAF1 is capable of forming homodimers and heterodimers with other members of the AT-hook family. Another transcriptional regulator required for ear initiation is the basic helix-loop-helix protein BARREN STALK1 (BA1). Genetic and expression analyses suggest that Baf1 is required to reach a threshold level of Ba1 expression for the initiation of maize ears. We propose that Baf1 functions in the demarcation of a boundary region essential for the specification of a stem cell niche.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1756-1771
Number of pages16
JournalPlant Cell
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011


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