PI: Erich Grotewold (The Ohio State University) CoPIs: Andrea I Doseff (The Ohio State University and John Gray (University of Toledo)

Establishing the architecture of gene regulatory networks and linking system components to agronomic traits is an emerging theme in plant systems biology. This project provides a concerted effort to comprehensively dissect the gene regulatory networks that target the metabolism of maize phenolic compounds, such as phenylpropanoids and flavonoids, of fundamental agricultural importance. This study combines the discovery of novel transcription factors (TFs) that control maize phenolic accumulation, with the identification of their interaction partners and of direct target genes for individual and TF combinations. The investigation of allelic TF preference to gene regulation will provide insights that will be applicable to grasses irrespective of ploidy level. The evolutionary conservation/divergence of identified TF-DNA complexes will be evaluated in other grasses, providing an unparalleled understanding of how evolution impacted plant gene regulatory systems, and resulting in knowledge directly applicable to cereal breeding. Together with the generation of a comprehensive and centralized maize transcription factor open reading frame (ORF) collection and antibodies to several regulatory proteins, these studies will significantly advance understanding of the regulation and evolution of one of the most important plant metabolic pathways in plants. The resources generated will be useful in accelerating the study of the regulation of other important metabolic and developmental pathways in maize and other grasses. The deployment of the data here generated through the Web-accessible knowledge base GRASSIUS (www.grassius.org) and MaizeGDB (www.maizegdb.org) will continue to ensure that the findings derived from this project will have the broadest possible dissemination.

This project integrates genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, mathematics, and bioinformatics for the comparative transcriptional genomics of phenolic compounds in grass crops. Its interdisciplinary nature provides unique opportunities for the training of students and postdocs across several disciplines. The strong history of involvement of students corresponding to underrepresented groups by the PI/co-PIs will be further expanded through the synergy provided by the interaction between Ohio State University, a land-grant university with a leading research component, and University of Toledo, a multicultural research extensive university with a strong education mission. Ongoing training will be complemented by the application of tools and resources developed here in workshops at Ohio State University and the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez. The inception of SIGuE (Success In Graduate Education) program, specifically designed to increase the recruitment and success of underrepresented minorities in graduate education, provides a natural continuum in efforts to better connect undergraduate and graduate instruction.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS)
Application #
Program Officer
Diane Jofuku Okamuro
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Ohio State University
United States
Zip Code