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Sequence, Evolution, and Expression of Mitochondrial Genomes in the Genus Zea
Plant mitochondrial genomes are unusual in their diversity of structure and rapidity of change. A recent comparison of the complete sequences of mitochondrial DNA from two eudicot species showed that, although most of the known coding regions are very conserved, large intergenic regions show no sequence similarity. The regions between genes have important roles in the rapid structural evolution seen for plant mitochondrial genomes. Moreover, these “non-coding” regions can become functional as components of chimeric genes that have been described as being responsible for several cases of cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS).
In order to understand how non-coding regions of mitochondrial genomes contribute to their structural and functional diversity, it is necessary to examine closely related species. To address these issues, six mitochondrial genomes within the genus Zea, including fertile and CMS mtDNAs of maize, are being sequenced and compared to the the mtDNA sequences of more distant relatives, Tripsacum dactyloides and Sorghum bicolor.