Biotech Updates

Gatekeeper for Tomato Pollination Identified

January 7, 2011

Scientists at University of California Davis headed by Roger Chetelet have found the gene that encodes a protein Cullin 1 that is thought to block cross-species fertilization. "Flowering plants have several types of reproductive barriers to prevent accidental hybridization between species in nature," Chetelat said. "We have identified one piece of this puzzle, a gene that helps control whether or not tomato pollen is recognized and rejected by flowers of related wild species."

The researchers identified the Cullin 1 gene that is expressed in the pollen and interacts genetically with another gene located near the S-locus, which blocks cross-species pollination. Cultivated tomato species that have the mutated form of the gene allow self pollination. The green-fruited tomato species was found to have functional Cullin 1 protein.

"Understanding and manipulating these reproductive barriers might help breeders access desired traits found in wild tomatoes," Chatelet added. This discovery would also be useful in many plant breeding applications not only for tomatoes which is a $1.5 billion industry in California but also in developing a better understanding of the basic biology of pollination.

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