Finding a way to extend tomato shelf-life

February 16, 2011

Tomatoes spend so much time on shelves and in refrigerators that an estimated 20 percent are lost to spoilage, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). But scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are working with colleagues at Purdue University to extend the shelf life of tomatoes. The research also may lead to tomatoes that taste better and are more nutritious.

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and the research results support the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

Autar Mattoo, a plant physiologist with the agency's Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., joined with Avtar Handa, a professor of horticulture at Purdue, and Savithri Nambeesan, a graduate student working with Handa, to focus on manipulating a class of nitrogen-based known as "polyamines" that act as signals and play a role in the plant's growth, flowering, fruit development, ripening, and other functions. Polyamines also have been linked to the production of lycopene and other nutrients that lower the risks of certain cancers and other diseases.

The researchers wanted to see if they could increase levels of polyamines in tomatoes, and what the effects would be of any increases. They introduced a polyamine-producing , known as spermidine synthase, into to increase the production of a higher polyamine spermidine that is believed to modulate the plant ripening process.

The results, published in The Plant Journal, showed that introducing the gene not only increased spermidine levels and vegetative growth, but extended the tomato's post-harvest shelf life. Shriveling was delayed by up to three weeks, and there was a slower rate of decay caused by diseases. The tomatoes also had higher levels of lycopene. The study also shows for the first time that spermidine has its own effects independent of other polyamines, extending shelf life and increasing growth.

The use of molecular genetics to enhance tomatoes has faced resistance from the horticulture industry and food-processing companies. But scientists have used the approach to develop improved varieties of corn, soybeans, and cotton.

Explore further: Gene leads to longer shelf life for tomatoes, possibly other fruits

More information: Read more about this research in the February 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/feb11/tomato0211.htm

Related Stories

Tangerine tomatoes surpass reds

February 2, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Besides their appealing orange color and sweet flavor, there's another reason to give tangerine tomatoes a try this year. A one-month study led by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in California ...

Unique tomatoes tops in disease-fighting antioxidants

February 27, 2007

Deep red tomatoes get their rich color from lycopene, a disease-fighting antioxidant. A new study, however, suggests that a special variety of orange-colored tomatoes provide a different form of lycopene, one that our bodies ...

A dash of salt grows healthier tomatoes

April 28, 2008

Watering tomatoes with diluted seawater can boost their content of disease-fighting antioxidants and may lead to healthier salads, appetizers, and other tomato-based foods, scientists in Italy report. Their study is scheduled ...

Scientists unravel the genetic secrets of a pink tomato

January 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. ...

Recommended for you

Lab charts the anatomy of three molecular channels

January 23, 2017

Using a state-of-the-art imaging technology in which molecules are deep frozen, scientists in Roderick MacKinnon's lab at Rockefeller University have reconstructed in unprecedented detail the three-dimensional architecture ...

New steps in the meiosis chromosome dance

January 23, 2017

Where would we be without meiosis and recombination? For a start, none of us sexually reproducing organisms would be here, because that's how sperm and eggs are made. And when meiosis doesn't work properly, it can lead to ...

Research describes missing step in how cells move their cargo

January 23, 2017

Every time a hormone is released from a cell, every time a neurotransmitter leaps across a synapse to relay a message from one neuron to another, the cell must undergo exocytosis. This is the process responsible for transporting ...

Immune defense without collateral damage

January 23, 2017

Researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland have clarified the role of the enzyme MPO. In fighting infections, this enzyme, which gives pus its greenish color, produces a highly aggressive acid that can kill pathogens ...

Provocative prions may protect yeast cells from stress

January 23, 2017

Prions have a notorious reputation. They cause neurodegenerative disease, namely mad cow/Creutzfeld-Jakob disease. And the way these protein particles propagate—getting other proteins to join the pile—can seem insidious.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.