Maize (Zea mays) has a large class of seed mutants with opaque or nonvitreous endosperms that could improve the nutritional quality of our food supply. The phenotype of some of them appears to be linked to the improper formation of protein bodies (PBs) where zein storage proteins are deposited. Although a number of genes affecting endosperm vitreousness have been isolated, it has been difficult to clone opaque7 (o7), mainly because of its low penetrance in many genetic backgrounds. The o7- reference (o7-ref) mutant arose spontaneously in a W22 inbred, but is poorly expressed in other lines. We report here the isolation of o7 with a combination of map-based cloning and transposon tagging. We first identified an o7 candidate gene by map-based cloning. The putative o7-ref allele has a 12-bp in-frame deletion of codons 350-353 in a 528-codon-long acyl-CoA synthetase-like gene (ACS). We then confirmed this candidate gene by generating another mutant allele from a transposon-tagging experiment using the Activator/Dissociation (Ac/Ds) system in a W22 background. The second allele, isolated from ~1 million gametes, presented a 2-kb Ds insertion that resembles the single Ds component of double-Ds, McClintocks original Dissociation element, at codon 496 of the ACS gene. PBs exhibited striking membrane invaginations in the o7-ref allele and a severe number reduction in the Ds-insertion mutant, respectively. We propose a model in which the ACS enzyme plays a key role in membrane biogenesis, by taking part in protein acylation, and that altered PBs render the seed nonvitreous.
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