Tomato study reveals juicy genes, CS’s Mike Schatz, The Hub

June 23, 2020

When Grammy-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar said “I got riches buildin’ in my DNA,” he almost certainly wasn’t talking about the humble tomato. But a new study unveiling more than 230,000 DNA differences across 100 tomato varieties, which will allow breeders and scientists to engineer larger, juicier, more profitable plants, proves that this food staple has riches buildin’ in its DNA, too.

“The vast majority of the DNA differences we discovered are completely new,” says Michael Schatz, Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor of computer science and biology at Johns Hopkins University and the co-corresponding author of the study, which was published online today in Cell.

One of the largest commercial fruit crops in the world, tomatoes make up a $190 billion global industry that relies on pinpointing which large-scale difference between genomes, or structural variants, are responsible for the variety of tomato shapes, colors, and tastes we see at the store.

Previous technologies, however, didn’t allow scientists to read large portions of a genome, only allowing for small bits to be read at a time.

“Like a big jigsaw puzzle with hundreds of millions of small pieces, maybe you manage to put together the corners, but not the big blue sky,” Schatz says. “The new technology used in this study allowed us to zoom in and get larger, clearer puzzle pieces.”

Read more at The Hub.

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