The tomato is a major crop plant and model for fruit development, and scientists have released a high-quality genome sequence for the domesticated variety and a draft sequence for its wild ancestor.
The achievement – by The Tomato Genome Consortium (TGC) – involved 300 scientists in 14 countries. The UK contribution – which included scientists from Imperial College London, the Universities of Nottingham and East Anglia, the Genome Analysis Centre, the James Hutton Institute and the Natural History Museum – focussed on chromosome 4, one of the 12 chromosomes which contain tomato genes. They produced a high quality sequence which set the standard for the other chromosomes being sequenced around the world.
“The publication of the tomato genome sequence has been eagerly anticipated both by the international research community and by tomato growers and breeders worldwide,” said Dr Gerard Bishop who co-led the BBSCR-funded research team in the UK.
“Coordinating the efforts of over 300 scientists across 14 countries has been a considerable achievement in which the UK has played an important role and the outcomes of this effort are already having an impact on the global research effort to deliver better tomatoes.”
The genomes will help breeders deliver tomatoes with beneficial traits like improved taste and high concentrations of nutrients, as well as those better equipped to combat pathogens, disease and drought.
“Tomatoes are one of the most important fruit crops in the world, both in terms of the volume that we eat and the vitamins, minerals and other phytochemicals that both fresh and processed tomato products provide to our diets,” said co-leader Graham Seymour, Professor of Biotechnology at the University of Nottingham.
“The tomato is the model plant we use to investigate the process of fruit ripening, so understanding this genome will help us unravel the molecular circuits that make tomato and other fruits ripen and given them their health promoting properties.”
The sequences – published in a study in Nature – provide the most detailed look yet at the functional portions of the genome, revealing the order, orientation, types and relative positions of all its 35,000 genes. This will help scientists broaden their understanding of how genetic and environmental factors interact to determine the health and viability of the fruit. It may also have important implications for other members of the Solanaceae family like potatoes, peppers and aubergines.