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Crop Biotech Update

Single Gene Dramatically Boosts Yield and Sweetness in Tomato Hybrids

March 31, 2010

Florigen was found to be the single gene that increased hybrid vigor and contributed to the sweetness of tomato, says the article published in Nature Genetics online. The study conducted in Cold Spring Harbor by a team including Assistant Professor Zach Lippman and two Israeli scientists used gene mutation to identify the elusive gene.

A mutant library composed of 5,000 plants, each of which has a single mutation in a single gene that causes defects in various aspects of tomato growth were crossed with its normal counterpart and searched for hybrids with improved yield. A hybrid with 60% increase in yield was obtained and the florigen gene was identified to instruct the plants when to start making flowers and produce fruits. "It's the Goldilocks concept," explains Lippman. "What we find is that to maximize yield, you can't have too much or too little florigen. A mutation in one copy of the gene results in the exact dose of florigen required to cause heterosis."

In addition, the superior hybrids with the florigen gene was found to boost the sugar and sweetness of the individual fruits which is not normally found in tomatoes having several fruits. Further studies are geared towards discovering the presence of florigen related genes in other crops to improve yield.

The article can be viewed at http://www.cshl.edu/public/releases/10_tomato.html