17:16 26 July 2016
Biologists have identified a gene responsible in tomato softening, which could lead to new varieties of tomatoes that are better tasting and stay firmer for a longer period.
The tomato is one of the most valuable crops in the world. Plant breeders are continuously working to produce high yielding, better tasting, more nutritious and longer lasting tomato varieties. However, some of the best ones often have a short shelf life.
Professor Graham Seymour, of the School of Biosciences at The University of Nottingham, said: 'To support the tomato industry and further improve consumer satisfaction with new tomato varieties, a major scientific goal has been to identify genes that allow the targeted control of fruit softening without impacting other aspects of ripening,'
'Such work would permit excellent fruit flavour and colour development, combined with enhanced shelf life.'
Working together with scientists from the Royal Holloway, University of London, researchers have identified a gene that encodes a pectate lyase, which normally degrades the pectin in the tomato cell wall during ripening. Professor Seymour said: 'In laboratory experiments we have demonstrated that if this gene is turned off, the fruit soften much more slowly, but still show normal changes in colour and the accumulation of taste compounds such as acids, sugars and aroma volatiles.
'Natural variation exists in the levels of pectate lyase gene expression in wild relatives of cultivated tomato and these can be used for conventional breeding purposes.
'This discovery can provide a means to refine the control of fruit softening in modern tomato cultivars.'