A distant upstream enhancer at the maize domestication gene tb1 has pleiotropic effects on plant and inflorescent architecture

Nat Genet. 2006 May;38(5):594-7. doi: 10.1038/ng1784. Epub 2006 Apr 23.


Although quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping has been successful in describing the genetic architecture of complex traits, the molecular basis of quantitative variation is less well understood, especially in plants such as maize that have large genome sizes. Regulatory changes at the teosinte branched1 (tb1) gene have been proposed to underlie QTLs of large effect for morphological differences that distinguish maize (Zea mays ssp. mays) from its wild ancestors, the teosintes (Z. mays ssp. parviglumis and mexicana). We used a fine mapping approach to show that intergenic sequences approximately 58-69 kb 5' to the tb1 cDNA confer pleiotropic effects on Z. mays morphology. Moreover, using an allele-specific expression assay, we found that sequences >41 kb upstream of tb1 act in cis to alter tb1 transcription. Our findings show that the large stretches of noncoding DNA that comprise the majority of many plant genomes can be a source of variation affecting gene expression and quantitative phenotypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Genes, Plant*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*
  • Zea mays / genetics*


  • Plant Proteins
  • TB1 protein, Zea mays