Tomato Genome Decoded

mistercross(z6b Ozarks)June 2, 2012

Just came across a NY Times article about the tomato genome. They decoded both Heinz 1706 and a wild tomato.

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Clickable link:

The tomato, whose genome has just now been decoded, turns out to be one well-endowed vegetable, possessing 31,760 genes. This rich legacy, possibly a reflection of the disaster that killed off the dinosaurs, is some 7,000 more than that of a person....

That the tomato and potato contain so many genes does not mean that they are more sophisticated than people but that they have chosen a different stratagem for managing their cells� affairs. Humans make heavy use of a technique called alternative splicing, which allows the components of each gene to be assembled in many different ways, so that one gene can produce many products.

The Solanaceae family, by contrast, has developed its genetic complexity through gaining more genes. About 70 million years ago, some lucky mishap in the process of cell division led to a triplication of the Solanum genome. The two spare copies of each gene were free to change through mutation. Many were useless and got dropped from the genome, but others developed useful new functions.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 10:53AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I swear that posted itself. Just pretend I put the quotation marks in and corrected the defective apostrophe (managing their cells' affairs).

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 10:57AM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

The article from the NY Times and another one from a scientific journal that has the original report have been posted at several sites.

I'll link to the original article one here when I get a chance, and I defy anyone to actually understand all the intricacies of the many ways the data is represented, and that includes me as well.

When discussing the evolution of the tomato I had a wee contribution to make to that via Dr. Ester Van der Knapp ( think that's the spelling), at Ohio State U in collaboration with Dr. David Francis , also at OSU, when asked if I'd send them some varieties I might have that were closest to the wild types,or had novel traits, and I did that.

Dr. Van der Knapp got her Ph.D at Cornell and was part of the SOLGENE project at Cornell, which is also involved with Iding not just newer genes, but what they actually do. There was a great article in Scientific American a few years ago about the evolution of the tomato in terms of the genes having to do with upsizing, written by Ester and her collaborators.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 11:08AM
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I read about this on They were saying that scientists, now that they have mapped the genome,will be better able to manipulate it for better production, disease resistance, and(GET THIS) flavor and color!! Clearly they mean the huge industrial farms or hydroponic setups. Heirlooms need no improvement in flavor or color. The outrage was evident in the comment section underneath the article.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 7:15PM
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HURRAY ! Now maybe they can develop long keeper tomatos that DO have the flavor(s) of heirlooms so we can buy good tomatos at the gro store Who cares about color? (That's just a curosity). To satisfy all tastes we need a dozen or more varieties from super sweet to super tart.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 12:37PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Who cares about color? (That's just a curosity).

Color is more than simply a curiosity. Greens and whites have their own particular flavors; yellows and golds are mild and often fruity. Many of the purples and blacks have a particular flavor; "smoky" and "earthy" are often cited.

All of this looks like either taste is related to color, or the genes for each are located in close proximity and likely to be passed on to the next generation together....

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 3:26PM
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I'll have to wait for a dumbed down summary comes out on this. But it's neat they did it, I guess. I'd never heard of Heinz 1706.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 3:47AM
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I thought it was interesting that they noted more success breeding for commercial qualities, then taste...

I think the reality was that commercial qualities just got priority. When most people are in a store, they are looking for ripe, blemish free fruit, as that is all they can see. You can't taste it until you get home. Because of that, I don't think taste has been a priority as is obvious from the tasteless tomatoes you get at the store. I don't think the genome will really change that for store bought produce, unfortunately. Often variety names are not listed for standard tomatoes. That would be one way to list potential improved taste.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 12:51PM
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There is a scientist in Florida analyzing the chemical components of great tasting tomatoes. I heard the Science Friday broadcast on NPR, which was very interesting. I think knowing the genome might help the scientists understand their breeding a little better, but it will be a while before there are great tasting tomatoes in the grocery store. Picking anything unripe is just difficult to capture a good flavor. (Except pears, but they are different.)

Some heirlooms could stand to be more disease resistant, higher producers, better keepers, etc. Not everyone can grow their own tomatoes. And not all hybrids are bad, Sungold is my favorite cherry tomato with a wonderful flavor. And so productive!

Here is a link that might be useful: Science Friday, NPR: Secret to great tomato flavor.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 3:58PM
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