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article imageGenetic history of tomatoes unveiled

By Tim Sandle     Nov 6, 2014 in Science
Davis - DNA sequencing of 360 tomato varieties has produced a genetic history of the fruit. The study has revealed that DNA around genes can lead to larger fruit size or enhanced resistance against diseases.
The tomato is an edible fruit that grows from the nightshade Solanum lycopersicum. The plant originated in the South American Andes and it was first used as a food in Mexico. Tomatoes are used worldwide and are said to have many health benefits. For example, tomatoes are widely known for their outstanding antioxidant content. Today there are almost 8,000 varieties of tomato plants found across the world.
The recent genome study was performed at the C.M. Rick Tomato Genetics Resource Center at UC Davis. The grounds within the university provided many of the cultivated tomato varieties studied.
The results show how the processes of early domestication and modern breeding influenced the genetic makeup of cultivated tomatoes (the types found in grocery stores today.) With the 360 varieties and wild strains studied, certain regions of the genome were altered during the process of domestication and breeding. Specifically two independent sets of genes have been identified as being responsible for transforming the fruit of modern commercial tomatoes into something over 100 times larger than the wild ancestors.
One finding that has potential concern is that the degree of “genetic uniformity” does mean that tomatoes could be at risk from certain diseases. In order to improve the health of tomato plants, it is important to increase overall genetic diversity in modern varieties.
The findings have been published in the journal Nature Genetics, in a paper headed “Genomic analyses provide insights into the history of tomato breeding.”
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