Dr. Daniel Berleant and Dr. Phil Williams receive nearly $50,000 to investigate protein accumulation in corn seeds

Dr. Daniel Berleant and Dr. Phil Williams of the Department of Information Science have received $48,167 from the USDA to study how proteins accumulate in corn seeds depending on their genomic and epigenomic traits. In order to study this important problem, the project team will analyze the expression of native and recombinant proteins from corn plants. Recombinant proteins are produced by transgenic plants, in this case corn plants. The hope is this will ultimately lead to corn strains that produce more nutrients, in this case proteins, thus helping to better feed the world’s population.

Berleant and Williams are working with the Elizabeth Hood laboratory at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro to discover genetic traits associated with protein accumulation in the edible kernels. The project team hypothesizes that increased protein accumulation can be attributed to epigenetic factors that inhibit natural protein-producing genes, preventing them from directing corn plants to produce more protein. Berleant said, “Because protein accumulation in plants and seeds affect the nutritional value of food, this project will help scientists determine how people can grow more nutritious crops.”

The research will specifically focus on data processing and analysis of genetic structures and related biological data using resources provided by the MidSouth Bioinformatics Center. This center houses an array of tools that allow analysis of large and complex biological data sets.

The project team will work with UALR/UAMS Joint Program in Bioinformatics PhD student Kori Bohon to meet the project goals. The group will meet regularly to share experiences, discuss progress, and implement techniques that will result in successful analyses of the unique data set to be provided by the Hood lab and their collaborators at Michigan State University.

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, AFRI project 2018-70001-27841.

Dr. Daniel Berleant Dr. Phil Williams

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