Gene mutation- Culprit behind the tomatoes loss of flavor

A major breakthrough in plant genetics occurred with the scientists discovering an answer to the question about why tomatoes are so tasteless and lack flavor even if the fruit is picked ripe and stored in moderate temperatures. Now researchers have discovered a genetic reason behind such occurrences in the form of genetic mutation that happened by chance and was discovered by tomato breeders.

This discovery was made by an international research team headed under the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences and one of the lead authors of the study Dr. Ann Powell – a biochemist at UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences said that they made this discovery by accident. The scientists started studying about the ripening process of the tomatoes and how they get their color some ten years ago and after working on it for about three to four years they had to stop the research due to lack of funding.

However, with some funding from the UC’s Discovery program, the USDA, The National Science Foundation and few other groups the research team started up again some 18 months ago. This time the university partnered with the researchers from Cornell University who then were mapping regions of the tomato genome in Spain. This was the time when they discovered that the genetic mutation as the main factor that made the tomatoes luscious scarlet when ripe.

Dr.Ann Powell was studying about weed genes, when her colleagues had put the genes into the tomato plants and to her surprise she found that the tomatoes with genes turned into dark green color before they ripened instead of tasteless pale green of most tomatoes of today. And on further study they found that with the weed genes, the tomatoes turned dark green. The reason the tomatoes had been light green was that they had the uniform ripening mutation that had set up a sort of chain reaction. The mutation not only caused the tomatoes to turn uniformly green and then red, but also disabled the genes involved in ripening.

In order to test their discovery, researchers used genetic engineering to turn on the disabled genes while leaving the uniform ripening trait alone. The fruit was then evenly dark green and then red and had 20% more sugar and 20 to 30 percent more carotenoids when ripe. With these findings there emerges a path for tomato breeders to make tomatoes better tasting and evenly red in color.

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