For Real: A Store-Bought Tomato with Vine-Ripened Taste
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
May 12, 1999
Doris Stanley Lowe, (301) 893-6727, email@example.com
Changing the levels of a key hormone in tomatoes could lead to fruit that
tastes better and lasts longer, Agricultural Research Service scientists
report. Research shows such a tomato to be only a few years away.
ARS plant physiologist Jerry D. Cohen and colleagues have genetically
altered the levels of auxin, a hormone which causes a tomato to grow and
ripen. It's the best known—and probably the most important—of the five major
Scientists have been studying auxin for more than 120 years. They've been
able to change auxin levels, but the changes were expressed throughout the
plant, not just in the fruit. The aim is to control the hormone production
so that it can be introduced into specific, targeted tissues--such as the
fruit-- without affecting the growth processes in other parts of the plant.
At the ARS Horticultural Crops Quality Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., Cohen
and colleagues inserted a backwards copy of iaglu—a gene from corn—into a
tomato to turn this gene off. Because the gene was put in with a
fruit-specific promoter, only the tomato fruit was affected. The resultant
fruit ripened more slowly. This work is in collaboration with scientists in
the ARS Climate Stress Laboratory in Beltsville. ARS is the chief scientific
agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Another plus for auxin: Decreasing the gene's level of expression throughout
receptor plants caused them to easily form large numbers of roots from
cuttings and spurred rapid root growth in germinating seedlings. This could
be significant for plants that are difficult to root from cuttings and could
increase the survival rate of seeds planted in dry soils.
Cohen expects this research to produce a store-bought tomato with
vine-ripened taste in about 3 years.
Scientific contact: Jerry D. Cohen, ARS Horticultural Crops Quality
Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., phone (703) 306-1442, fax (703) 306-0355,
jdcohen@NSF.gov (on detail to the National Science Foundation until October
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