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NSF Awards $4.7M for Tomato Genetics Studies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Researchers from Cornell, the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, and the US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Station have been awarded a National Science Foundation grant to conduct gene expression studies to improve tomatoes.

According to NSF's database, about $2.8 million of the five-year grant has been awarded to date. Jocelyn Rose, the principal investigator on the grant and the director of the Institute of Biotechnology at Cornell, said that the total budget for the project is $4.7 million.

The grant abstract says that the project has three overarching goals — to elucidate regulatory processes that influence tomato growth and ripening; to research the associated hormone biosynthesis and signaling pathways; and to shed light on molecular events that result in cell wall formation and restructuring.

Initial research has provided insights into gene expression patterns that regulate the development of the fruit. However, those studies have almost exclusively centered on the flesh of the tomato and ignored "global gene expression in the different constituent cell types."

With the NSF grant, scientists will expand efforts to characterize tomato response to drought using genomics technologies. The research will be extended to include two diverse wild relatives of tomato that show a high tolerance to water stress.

A tomato expression atlas, a gene expression database for cultivated tomato and wild relatives, with insights into regulatory circuitry that control the fruit's development and responses to drought at the cell/tissue type level of resolution is anticipated to result from the research, according to the grant abstract. Also expected is detailed information about "the tissue specificity of hormone biosynthesis and signaling pathways, and cell wall biosynthesis and remodeling during fruit development in tomato and wild relatives, and following drought treatments."

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