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Tastier Tomatoes

Store-bought tomatoes often don't have the same flavor as other tomatoes, and researchers from the Boyce Thompson Institute may have hit on why.

Boyce Thompson's Zhangjun Fei, also an adjunct professor at Cornell University, along with colleagues from several other institutions developed a tomato pan-genome based on 725 accessions from different parts of the tomato family tree and different regions of the world. As they report in Nature Genetics this week, the researchers uncovered 4,873 genes within these samples that are not present in the tomato reference genome. They also noted a rare allele in the TomLoxC promoter that appears to have undergone negative selection during the domestication process, which Fei notes in a press release largely focused on developing tomatoes that were a good size and had a good shelf life.

Through quantitative trait locus mapping and the analysis of transgenic plants, they found that the TomLoxC promoter has a role in apocarotenoid production, which is linked to flavor in tomatoes. The rare version of the allele, the researchers note, is present in 91 percent of wild tomatoes, but is only found in about 2 percent of older domesticated tomatoes and 7 percent of newer one ones, which could indicate a resurgence in breeding efforts aimed at flavor, the researchers say in a statement