A gene controlling biosynthesis of isoorientin, a compound in corn silks antibiotic to the corn earworm

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The corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea Boddie) is an important pest of corn (Zea mays L.), and its larvae sometimes cause severe ear damage to hybrids grown in the southeastern United States. The antibiotic compound isoorientin is present in silks of some corn inbreds at a concentration that is harmful to corn earworm larvae. The inbred T218, which produces biologically active levels of this compound (>2.0% dry weight), was evaluated in hybrid combination with two other non-hyphen;isoorientin producing inbreds to determine the mode of isoorientin inheritance in corn silks. Silk masses from individual ears of each parent, the F1, F2, first backcrosses, F3 families and selfed BC1 families were evaluated in 1994 and 1995 for isoorientin concentration. Reversed-hyphen;phase high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) was used to make chemical determinations. Segregation ratios in the F2, first backcross to T218, F3 families and selfed BC1 families were tested. The tests were conclusive in the identification of a single recessive gene controlling high isoorientin concentration in the silks of inbred T218. Some evidence for modifiers exists, in that there was a statistically nonsignificant trend for more plants than expected to occur in the low isoorientin concentration classes. Development of inbreds with a high concentration of the simply inherited isoorientin in their silks will add to the arsenal of compounds available in corn silks to combat damage to corn by corn earworm larvae.

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