Biotech Updates

Researchers Unearth Genome of Wild Shrub from Tomato Family

September 14, 2022

A closer look at the flower and fruit of an Iochroma cyaneum shrub grown in southern Ecuador. Like its relative, the tomatillo, this shrub’s fruit has an enlarged husk growing around it. Researchers recently were able to create a full genetic sequence for the plant. Photo Source: Stacey Smith

Researchers led by Stacey Smith, a professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder have sequenced the genome of Iochroma cyaneum, a wild shrub in the tomatillo tribe of the tomato family.

After sequencing the Iochroma genome and assembling the sequences into chromosomes, Smith's team compared it to other members of the family. The broader tomato family has almost 3,000 species. Forty species have been domesticated, which include potatoes, eggplants, and hot peppers, in addition to tomatoes. All of these plants belong to the family and are also called “nightshades.” The genome revealed that Iochroma was part of the family known as the “berry clade,” a subgroup of “berries” which are juicy fruits with many seeds, like tomatoes and hot peppers.

The new genome provides a new look into the evolution of the family. One clue is how the genes have moved around as the species evolved. Iochroma offered up a surprise as its genome shuffling did not closely resemble any other sequenced genome, meaning the shrub has had its own unique evolutionary path.

For more details, read the article on the American Society of Agronomy website.

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