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Crop Biotech Update

CRISPR Helps Groundcherry Domestication

October 3, 2018

You might not have heard -- or tasted -- the groundcherry, but this could soon change. The Van Eck Laboratory headed by Joyce Van Eck at Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) has presented their research on this crop which could make groundcherries a common household name thanks to the genome editing tool CRISPR.

The groundcherry (Physalis pruinosa) is approximately the same size as a cherry tomato, but has a much sweeter flavor and is a powerhouse of nutritional value. Packed with Vitamin C, Vitamin B, beta-carotene, phytosterols, and antioxidants, plus anti-inflammatory and medicinal properties, this tiny fruit might just be the next superfood.

To improve the groundcherry's yield and weedy growth habit, Van Eck and her collaborator, Zach Lippman, at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory hypothesized that groundcherry genes could be modified for immediate improvements. Genetic alterations led to changes in the hormone that regulates flowering, producing plants which are more compact with fruit in clusters. They also targeted ways to increase fruit size and weight through a CRISPR-generated mutation, leading to 50 percent more fruit along a given stem and more seedy sections in each fruit.

For more details, read the BTI news article.