Tomato genome cracked by scientists

Park Sae-jin Reporter() | Posted : June 1, 2012, 04:30 | Updated : June 1, 2012, 04:30
According to Reuters, an international team of scientists has cracked the genetic code of the domesticated tomato and its wild ancestor, an achievement that should help breeders identify the genes needed to develop tastier and more nutritious varieties.

The full genome sequence of a tomato breed known as Heinz 1706, and a draft sequence for its closest wild relative Solanum pimpinellifolium, was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

Researchers who carried out the work said that together the sequences provide the most detailed look yet at the functional parts of the tomato genome and show order, orientation, types and relative positions of all of its 35,000 genes.

The sequences should help researchers find the links between certain tomato genes and the characteristics they determine, and will extend scientists‘ understanding of how genetic and environmental factors affect the health of a crop.

Tomatoes represent a $2 billion market in the United States alone a year. The research also offers some insight into how the tomato and its relatives diversified and adapted to new environments over the years.

The scientists said the findings show the tomato genome expanded abruptly about 60 million years ago. Some of the genes generated during that expansion were involved in the development and control of ripening, making them particularly interesting to tomato breeders.

Strawberries, apples, melons, bananas and other fleshy fruits share some characteristics with tomatoes, so knowledge about the genes involved in fruit ripening could potentially be applied to them, helping breeders and growers to improve food quality and cut costs.

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