Friday, June 08, 2012

Tomato genome decoded and made public to improve its future production and pest resistance

In Western Farm Press Daniel Stolte reports that an international consortium has deciphered the genetic code of the cultivated tomato and a wild relative. The Tomato Genome Consortium, a group of more than 300 scientists from 14 countries, decided to publish results in the May 31 issue of the journal Nature in an effort to reduce costs and streamline and improve future tomato production and resistance to pests and drought.

"The sequence provides a detailed overview of the functional portions of the tomato genome and its closest relative, revealing the order and structure of their 35,000 genes," writes Stotle, of the University of Arizona. "The tomato belongs to the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, which includes potatoes, peppers and eggplant, plus ornamental or medicinal plants including petunia, tobacco, belladonna, and mandrake. The members of this family have adapted to different ecosystems, from tropical rainforests to the extremely dry Atacama Desert in Chile."

“The tomato is an important biological model system for understanding fruit biology, ripening and crop development,” said Rod Wing, who heads the university's Arizona Genomics Institute. “Having the genome provides a much more precise way of bringing in genes through normal breeding and crossing techniques, and much faster than was possible before.” Having the genome sequence will allow scientists to locate and identify genes more quickly and improve the crop more rapidly. The sequence shows that the genome of tomato “triplicated” suddenly about 60 million years ago, soon after the mass extinction that included the disappearance of the dinosaurs. 

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