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Crop Biotech Update

Gene Discovery to Help Peaches Adapt to Climate Change

March 17, 2021

A research team led by the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) has identified genes that could enable peaches and their wild relatives to tolerate stressful conditions and adapt to climate change.

The research team examined the genomes of 263 wild relatives and landraces of peach from seven regions in China. Of these, 218 came from the National Peach Germplasm Repository of China and 45 from the Tibetan Plateau. They conducted genome-wide environmental association studies on the samples and identified more than 2,700 spots in the genome that are linked to 51 environmental factors affecting the local climates of those regions. Genes responsible for peach's tolerance to multiple environmental factors, such as cold, drought, and ultraviolet (UV-B) radiation levels at high altitudes were identified.

The researchers found that peaches from a region with extremely low winter temperatures had a genetic variation in the histidine phosphotransfer protein AHP5, suggesting the variant gave the peach tree the ability to resist cold. Plants from a very arid region harbored variants in multiple genes in the abscisic acid (ABA) biosynthesis pathway that regulates drought stress responses, and in 12 genes on pathways that regulate starch and sugar metabolism. They found that in response to drought stress, ABA-induced higher levels of a sucrose-producing enzyme, which explains why peaches from this region have consistently higher sugar contents than fruit from less arid regions.

For more details, read the article on the BTI website.

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