Jeffrey L. Bennetzen

University of Georgia

Primary Section: 62, Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences
Secondary Section: 25, Plant Biology
Membership Type: Member (elected 2004)

Research Interests

From my earliest training in genetics and molecular biology, I have been interested in the organization, evolution and function of eukaryotic genomes. My laboratory has concentrated on the roles of transposable elements in rearranging chromosomes and altering gene function. We've isolated many novel transposable elements from maize (commonly known as corn in the United States) and several related cereal species, and have characterized the mutational mechanisms and regulation of these mobile DNAs. These studies also led to our development of comparative genomics as a major tool for cereal study, producing the first data showing an exceptional level of micro-instability in plant chromosomes within a framework of overall genome macro-conservation. One result of these observations has been a mechanistic explanation of the "C-value paradox", the huge variation in genome size that does not correlate with organismal complexity. A second outcome has been the development of comparative genomics as a uniquely valuable tool for the study and improvement of grain species, like the millets and sorghum, that receive little research attention because they are not major sources of food or income in the Western world. We have used comparative genetic mapping, cloning and sequencing to identify genes and germplasm in these "orphan crops" that could be used to greatly enhance crops yields and maintain agricultural diversity in the developing world.

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