31.05.2012 - Researchers have decoded the tomato genome, laying the foundation for smart breeding of other species of the solanaceae family.
Ghent, Rome, Harpenden, Washington – A consortium of 300 researchers from 14 countries has decoded 80% of the tomato genome, and 90% of its 35,000 protein-coding genes. The leaders of the UK arm of the Tomato Genome Consortium (TGC), Graham Seymour at the University of Nottingham and Gerard Bishop, formerly of Imperial College London, stressed the sequence will make precision breeding possible not just in tomatoes, but also in other crop species from the Solanaceae or nightshade family, such as aubergines and peppers.
They said it could help to develop tomato varieties that can survive pests, pathogens and even climate change, as well as high-yield crops that still have a good flavour. “It’s really all about making a better tomato,” commented Allen Van Deynze, a molecular geneticist at the Seed Biotechnology Center at the University of California, Davis. “This work enables a lot of things we just couldn’t do before.”
The researchers compared the sequences a domesticated tomato variety used to produce the famous ketchup („Heinz1706“) and its closest wild relative, /Solanum pimpinellifolium/ and its functional consequences. "For any characteristic of the tomato, whether it's taste, natural pest resistance or nutritional content, we've captured virtually all those genes," said James Giovannoni from the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research at Cornell University, who was part of the U.S. tomato sequencing team. The research also offers some insight into how the tomato ripens and how its relatives diversified and adapted to new environments. Using traditional Sanger sequencing, the TGC started its work in 2003 but the genome sequence still had major holes by 2008. Next generation sequencing helped the consortium to close the gaps and to translate the genetic information into biological functions. Belgian experts from VIB and University Ghent mainly lead the gene prediction that translated the raw genome sequence in biological knowledge.
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