UA Geneticists Help Make Tomato Genome an Open Book

Thursday, July 5, 2012

An international consortium has deciphered the genetic code of the cultivated tomato and a wild relative.

The complete genetic information of the cultivated tomato and its closest wild relative, Solanum pimpinellifolium, have been sequenced by the Tomato Genome Consortium, or TGC, a group of more than 300 scientists from 14 countries.

Published as a cover story in the May 31 issue of the journal Nature, the results from this effort are expected to reduce costs and streamline efforts to improve tomato production and resistance to pests and drought.
The sequence provides a detailed overview of the functional portions of the tomato genome and its closest relative, revealing the order and structure of their 35,000 genes.

The tomato belongs to the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, which includes potatoes, peppers and eggplant, as well as ornamental or medicinal plants, such as petunia, tobacco, belladonna and mandrake. The members of this family have adapted to different ecosystems, from tropical rainforests to the extremely dry Atacama Desert in Chile.
"The tomato is an important biological model system for understanding fruit biology, ripening and crop development," said Rod Wing, who heads the Arizona Genomics Institute at the University of Arizona, which provided the physical map that made it possible to put the genetic sequence in order. Wing is also a professor of plant sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

"Having the genome provides a much more precise way of bringing in genes through normal breeding and crossing techniques, and much faster than was possible before."
Wing's group specializes in building what geneticists call a physical map of a genome, a crucial foundation of any genome sequencing effort. His lab has earned a reputation for providing extremely high-quality maps, as documented in previous sequencing efforts leading to the genome sequences of rice and corn. 

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