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article imageGenetic engineering increases tomato yields

By Tim Sandle     Aug 9, 2014 in Science
Enhancing the expression of a single gene in tomatoes seemingly improves the plant’s ability to withstand light and increases yields.
While tomatoes are synonymous with summer, too much light can be lethal to the cultivated tomato plant. To overcome this, a new study has demonstrated that a single genomic region can make plants tolerant to continuous light, and increase crop yields significantly. This ability to grow under a greater intensity of sunlight can be addressed through genetic engineering.
Wondering why tomato plants turned yellow, withered and then died in high levels of sunlight, and yet peppers seemed to flourish, Aarón Vélez Ramírez of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and his colleagues analyzed genomic and gene expression data from eight wild varieties of tomato. According to the L.A. Times, the scientists found that the presence of one gene on chromosome 7 was critical to the light-hardiness of these species.
Ability to grow in high levels of sunlight was traced to a specific gene, named CAB-13, or type III light harvesting chlorophyll a/b-binding protein. ABC Science recounts that subsequent experiments showed that with tomato plants in which CAB-13 gene function was restored showed increased tolerance to being grown under continuous light. These plants showed no signs of disease, as well as increased fruit yields (by about 20 percent).
The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications. The study is titled "A single locus confers tolerance to continuous light and allows substantial yield increase in tomato."
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