London: For the first time, an international team, including scientists from India, have cracked the genetic code of tomato to produce varieties, which will not only be tastier, but better in aroma and colour as well, a study has reported.
The tomato genome sequence includes both the domesticated type and its wild ancestor, Solanum pimpinellifolium
This is an important tool for further development of better tomato production by the 300-plus-memberTomato Genome Consortium (TGC).
The group included Prof. Dani Zamir of the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment of the Hebrew University.
Other scientists involved in the project are from Argentina, Belgium, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.
When Columbus brought tomato seed from America to the old world some 500 years ago, he probably wouldn’t have imagined that it would contribute so immensely to human nutrition, health, culinary pleasure and international cooperation.
This latest quantum leap in knowledge of the tomato genetic code (35,000 genes) provides a method to match DNA sequences with specific traits that are important for human well being or taste, such as flavor, aroma, color and yield.
Except the improvement of the tomato, the genome sequence also provides a framework for studying closely related plants, such as potato, pepper, petunia and even coffee.
All these species possess very similar sets of genes, yet they look very different.
However the question is that how can a similar set of “genetic blueprints” empower diverse plants with different adaptations, characteristics and economic products?
This challenging question is trying to be answered by comparing biodiversity and traits of tomato and its relatives.
The Tomato Genome Consortium started its work in year 2003, when scientists investigated the DNA sequence of tomato using the most modern equipment available at the time.
Fortunately, with the recent introduction of so-called ‘next generation sequencing’ technologies, the speed of information output has increased 500-fold and enabled the project to move on efficiently to its conclusion.
This study has been published in the journal Nature.