Biotech Updates

Study Reveals Epigenome Changes Control Tomato Ripening

January 30, 2013

A new study by researchers at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI) and the US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) reveals that epigenetics, a set of chemical changes to a plant's DNA, play an important role in tomato ripening, giving the signal to the fruit when the time is right to turn red.

James Giovannoni, ARS molecular biologist and his colleagues took up the question of whether epigenetics might play a role in tomato ripening. Researchers injected unripe tomatoes with a compound that inhibits the enzymes that methylate DNA, and the tomatoes ripened prematurely, an indication that DNA methylation regulates ripening. The group is following up on the findings to check if it may eventually be possible to improve other fruit crops by targeting methylation in ripening genes.

Results of the study was published on the January 27 issue of the journal Nature. The news release can be read at