Red tomatoes thanks to meteorite

Jun 08, 2012 By Albert Sikkema

(Phys.org) -- The meteorite which crashed into the Earth 60 to 70 million years ago, wiping out dinosaurs, had probably given us nice red tomatoes as well. This can be deduced from a tomato genome analysis, published on 30 May in Nature.

The researchers who mapped the tomato genome have established that the genome of the original suddenly tripled in size about 60 to 70 million years ago. "Such a big genome expansion points to extremely ,' says René Klein Lankhorst, the Wageningen UR coordinator of the tomato genome research project. 'We suspect that the crash and the resulting solar eclipse had created conditions difficult for plants to survive. A distant ancestor of the tomato plant then reacted by expanding its genome considerably in order to increase its chances of survival."

When conditions subsequently improved again, this ancestor of the tomato got rid of a lot of genetic ballast, but the genetic base for fruit formation had already been developed by then, the tomato fruit acquired its red colour and certain genes which produced toxins disappeared, says Klein Lankhorst. In this way, the tomato differentiates itself from a family member, the potato, which has no edible fruits.

The plant researchers could 'look back' very far into the past by comparing the tomato plant genome with family members in the nightshade and other plant families. And they had the advantage of having almost mapped all the 35 thousand genes of the tomato, which made even small changes noticeable. For example, a comparison of the locally produced vegetable crop with the wild ancestor Solanum pimpinellifolium (probably brought to Europe by the Spanish) showed that the genome of the Dutch tomato differs by only 0.6 percent from that of its wild ancestor from the 15th Century.

Klein Lankhorst participated in an international consortium involved in tomato genome sequencing since 2004. It was only when this research group switched to new sequencing techniques in 2008 that a breakthrough could be made. Although the first analysis of the genome is published this week in Nature, the DNA information is in fact already available for researchers and plant breeders for two years. The researchers have now also placed about eighty pages of analyses on the website. This publication gives new insight which makes growing a salt-tolerant or an even more delicious tomato possible. But to do this, breeding companies would have to carry out additional research.

Explore further: New insights into how different tissues establish their biological and functional identities

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Tomato genome fully sequenced

May 30, 2012

For the first time, the genome of the tomato, Solanum lycopersicum, has been decoded, and it becomes an important step toward improving yield, nutrition, disease resistance, taste and color of the tomato and ...

Scientists unravel the genetic secrets of a pink tomato

Jan 14, 2010

Far Eastern diners are partial to a variety of sweet, pink-skinned tomato. Dr. Asaph Aharoni of the Weizmann Institute's Plant Sciences Department has now revealed the gene that's responsible for producing these pink tomatoes. ...

Tomato gene may fend banana against formidable fungus

Apr 13, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Proteins from the fungus Cladosporium fulvum, which causes leaf blight in tomato plants, are very similar to the proteins of the fungus Mycosphaerella fijiensis, which causes the much-feared black Sigato ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

alfie_null
not rated yet Jun 10, 2012
... or an even more delicious tomato possible. But to do this, breeding companies would have to carry out additional research.

I extrapolate current research for commercial varieties, and predict a future tomato with a shelf life measured in years, that can also be used as a building material (kind of like a round brick, unless they can also figure out how to grow square tomatoes).

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...