ScienceShot: Tapping the Tomato's Secrets

30 May 2012 1:00 pm

Giovanni Giuliano

Every year, gardeners grapple with how to grow a tastier tomato. Now scientists are tapping into the fruit's secrets, too. The first high-quality genome sequence of the tomato, reported online today in Nature, reveals the genes responsible for everything from the fruit's color to the sources of its famous antioxidant, lycopene. The tomato (left) shares all but 8% of its more than 34,000 protein-coding genes with its close relative, the recently sequenced potato. The tomato is even more similar to its wild cousin, the small-fruited, hardy and usually green tomato, Solanum pimpinellifolium (right); the two share all but 0.6% of their genome, which suggests they've been recently crossed. The completed genome could help scientists pinpoint how and when the tomato was first domesticated, and it may even lead breeders to that holy grail: an even better tomato. And in case you're wondering, yes, the genome confirms that the tomato is indeed a fruit, not a vegetable.

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