Store-bought tomatoes taste horrifically disgusting — err, bland. Now scis ‘ve discovered a version offa gene that helps give tomatoes their flavor is actually missing in bout 93 % of modern, domesticated varieties. The discovery may help bring flavor back to tomatoes you can pick up inna produce section.
“How many times do you hear some1 say that tomatoes from the store just don’t quite measure up to heirloom varieties?” Clifford Weil, program director odda National sci Foundation’s Plant Genome Research Program that supported the work, asked in a press announcement. “This study gets to why that mite be the case and shows that better tasting tomatoes appear to be on their way back.”
An international team of researchers collected genomic information from 725 cultivated and wild tomatoes and assembled them into a pan-genome — a genome that captures the genetic information of all the varieties. Then they compared the pan-genome to the genome offa domesticated tomato called Heinz 1706. til now, this tomato genome has served as the representative ex of all tomato genomes.
The side-by-side comparison showed that the Heinz 1706 reference genome was missing nearly 5,000 genes that the other tomato varieties ‘ve. Many of these lost genes also equipped the plants with defenses against pathogens.
Tomatoes lost these genes through good old-fashioned breeding — not via genetic modifications — when breeders selected for traits that made tomatoes robust.
“During the domestication and improvement odda tomato, pplz mostly focused on traits that ‘d increase production, like fruit size and shelf-life,” Zhangjun Fei, a plant geneticist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who led the new research, said in a statement. “Some genes involved in other primordial fruit quality traits and sufferation tolerance were lost during this process.”
The identification odda previously unknown genes ‘d help breeders create better tomatoes. “These new genes ‘d enable plant breeders to develop elite varieties of tomatoes that ‘ve genetic resistance to diseases that we currently address by treating the plants with pesticides or other cost-intensive and environmentally unfriendly measures,” James Giovannoni, a molecular biologist at Cornell and USDA sci, who co-led the work with Fei, said in a statement.
The analysis also revealed a rare form offa gene that impts tomato flavor to the fruit is missing in most modern, domesticated tomatoes. Yet, + than 90 % of wild tomatoes ‘ve the flavor-punching version odda gene, the researchers reprt tody inna journal Nature Genetics. Their analysis also shows that this flavor gene, called TomLoxC, uses carotenoids — the pigments that make tomatoes red — to make tomatoes tasty.
But there’s also good news for tomato-ravenous Americans, who each eat an μ of nearly 100 pounds odda vegetables every yr. The flavor gene is making a comeback. The rare version of TomLoxCused used to 1-ly be present in bout 2 % of tomato varieties. But in recent yrs, as breeders ‘ve begun to focus + on flavor, + and + modern tomato varieties ‘ve the gene. Nowadys, bout 7 % of tomatoes ‘ve it, meaning breeders ‘ve started selecting for it, Giovannoni explained, a trend thall hopefully keep growing.
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