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Crop Biotech Update

Research Reveals GORKY Protein Turns Bitter Tomatoes Sweet

May 5, 2021
Photo Source: Weizmann Institute of Science

A team of researchers from Weizmann Institute of Science identified the reason for the bitter taste in tomatoes which could be used to enhance its breeding.

The team documented a comprehensive profile of 600 lines of local tomato and hybrid species and compared their genomes by correlating the differences in their qualities. They found that alpha-tomatine is the toxic substance that causes bitterness in tomatoes. Alpha-tomatine is converted into non-bitter metabolites as the tomato ripens.

The researchers compare the genetic make-up of a wild tomato species which stays bitter even if it ripens with the non-bitter species. They found a mutation in a gene that did not encode an enzyme affecting the bitter-to-sweet conversion, but rather a transporter protein which they called GORKY. To prove their claim, the researchers used CRISPR technology to silence the gene in some species of tomatoes. The experiment proves that tomatoes without GORKY tasted bitter. The study opens up a line of future research to see if the transporter mechanism exists in other plants.

For more details, read the news release on the website of Weizmann Institute of Science and the journal article in Nature Plants.

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