Crop Biotech Update

Researchers Power Up Tomato with Multiple Traits Through A Single Gene

January 16, 2013

Researchers from the National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR) in New Delhi claim that they have empowered a crop with multiple traits by genetic modification (GM) using a single gene. The NIPGR team report the successful creation of a transgenic tomato that is tolerant to drought, resistant to fungal infection and at the same time nutritionally rich with more iron and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) content.

The multiple traits were imparted to the tomato by transferring a gene from an edible fungus called Flammulina velutipes. This gene is said to code for the enzyme C-5 sterol desaturase (FvC5SD). Epicuticular wax, a paraffin-like wax in plant leaves protect plants from water loss and drought. The transgenic tomato plants expressing FvC5SD had wax deposition of 23 percent more than their non-transgenic counterparts, giving them enhanced drought tolerance and increased resistance to fungal attacks. Fv5C5SD is an iron-binding protein and the researchers found out that the transgenic tomatoes contained two to three times more iron than the control plants. They also claim that the transgenic tomatoes have enhanced level of PUFA, approximately 1.5 to 5 times more than in non- transgenic tomatoes.

Asis Datta, Professor at NIPGR said that "To our knowledge, this is the only report showing that expression of a single gene can improve biotic/abiotic stresses as well as nutritional quality at the same time." He added that while the genetic transformation in this work pertained to tomatoes, the strategy can be used on other economically important crops.

The team's report is published in Scientific Reports, available at http://www.nature.com/srep/2012/121210/srep00951/full/srep00951.html.