The prolamin-box binding factor1 (pbf1) gene encodes a transcription factor that controls the expression of seed storage protein (zein) genes in maize. Prior studies show that pbf1 underwent selection during maize domestication although how it affected trait change during domestication is unknown. To assay how pbf1 affects phenotypic differences between maize and teosinte, we compared nearly isogenic lines (NILs) that differ for a maize versus teosinte allele of pbf1. Kernel weight for the teosinte NIL (162mg) is slightly but significantly greater than that for the maize NIL (156mg). RNAseq data for developing kernels show that the teosinte allele of pbf1 is expressed at about twice the level of the maize allele. However, RNA and protein assays showed no difference in zein profile between the two NILs. The lower expression for the maize pbf1 allele suggests that selection may have favored this change; however, how reduced pbf1 expression alters phenotype remains unknown. One possibility is that pbf1 regulates genes other than zeins and thereby is a domestication trait. The observed drop in seed weight associated with the maize allele of pbf1 is counterintuitive but could represent a negative pleiotropic effect of selection on some other aspect of kernel composition.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
National Science Foundation (IOS0820619, ISO1025869 to J.F.D.); State Scholarship Fund of China (2011325029 to Z.L.).