Non-Mendelian regulation and allelic variation of methionine-rich delta-zein genes in maize

Theor Appl Genet. 2009 Aug;119(4):721-31. doi: 10.1007/s00122-009-1083-5. Epub 2009 Jun 7.


Sufficient methionine levels in the seed are critical for the supply of a balanced diet for feed and food. Currently, animal feed is supplemented with chemically synthesized methionine, which could be completely replaced with naturally synthesized methionine. However, insufficient levels of methionine are due to alleles of two genes in the maize genome that are expressed during seed development, which have a high percentage of methionine codons, ranging from 23 to 28%, while free methionine is very low. The two genes, dzs10 and dzs18, belong to the prolamin gene family that arose during the evolution of the grasses and were duplicated during a whole genome duplication event. We have found several dzs10 and dzs18 null alleles caused either by transposon insertion or frame shift mutations. Maize seeds with null mutations of both genes have a normal phenotype in contrast to other prolamin genes, explaining the accumulation of methionine deficiency in normal breeding efforts. Moreover, the trans-regulation of these genes deviates from Mendelian inheritance. One allele of the regulatory locus dzr1 is inherited in a parent-of-origin fashion, while another allele appears to prevent Mendelian segregation of the high-methionine phenotype in backcrosses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles*
  • Base Sequence
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Genes, Plant*
  • Genotype
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • Inbreeding
  • Inheritance Patterns
  • Methionine / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Zea mays / genetics*
  • Zein / genetics*
  • Zein / metabolism


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Zein
  • Methionine