How close to the tree does it fall?
San Michele all’Adige – The genetic code of the Golden Delicious apple has been deciphered. Led by Riccardo Velasco at the Edmund Mach Foundation in San Michele all’Adige in Italy’s Trentino province, a team of scientists from 20 institutions all over the world took two years to unravel the apple’s DNA. It’s the largest plant genome decoded to date (Nature Genetics, 29 August 2010).
The apple and its close relative, the pear, both have 17 chromosomes. That’s about twice the number of chromosomes in other plants from the same family. Sequencing the tree’s genome revealed that long stretches of certain chromosomes are copied in others, and many of the duplicate genes in apple trees are related to fruit development.
The apple DNA study suggests that a major step in the evolution of the apple coincided with a catastrophic event some 60 million years ago, and may have been a survival response during a period of mass extinctions. Velaso said that sequencing the genome “would have huge implications for applied breeding.” He thinks the data will soon be used by experts to “help us to develop high quality traits and bring new products to the apple market.” At the moment, there are around 7,500 recognised varieties of apple.