Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology 125th Points of Pride

Maize Research Leaps Ahead with Early Jumping Gene Discoveries
Two premier researchers serving on the Iowa State faculty for 50 years were pioneers in the field of maize cytogenetics. Research discoveries through the course of their careers in the area of transposon biology by Peter Peterson, professor of agronomy, and Donald Robertson, professor of genetics, development and cellular biology, helped usher in the genomics era to plant biology. Their ground-breaking research on these genetic elements that can hop around the genome, reshape it and alter specific gene activity spurred a new understanding about genomes and offered up some extremely valuable genomic tools. Peterson entered the scene with his discovery of the “enhancer-inhibitor” mobile element in 1953. Robertson is best known for his discovery in 1978 of Robertson’s mutator system, now a well recognized and highly studied transposon family in maize that is widely used as a tool for gene cloning.