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Scientists Find Genetic Reason Why Store-Bought Tomatoes Taste So Bland

By pearl • 12 months ago • 1107 views • 99 comments
Scientists Find Genetic Reason Why Store-Bought Tomatoes Taste So Bland

Store-bought tomatoes taste horrifically disgusting — err, bland. Now scientists have discovered a version of a gene that helps give tomatoes their flavour is actually missing in about 93 percent of modern, domesticated varieties. The discovery may help bring flavor back to tomatoes you can pick up in the produce section.

“How many times do you hear someone say that tomatoes from the store just don’t quite measure up to heirloom varieties?” Clifford Weil, program director of the National Science Foundation’s Plant Genome Research Program that supported the work, asked in a press announcement. “This study gets to why that might be the case and shows that better tasting tomatoes appear to be on their way back.”

Domestication Doom

An international team of researchers collected genomic information from 725 cultivated and wild tomatoes and assembled them into a pan-genome — a genome that captures the genetic information of all the varieties. Then they compared the pan-genome to the genome of a domesticated tomato called Heinz 1706. Until now, this tomato genome has served as the representative example of all tomato genomes.

The side-by-side comparison showed that the Heinz 1706 reference genome was missing nearly 5,000 genes that the other tomato varieties have. Many of these lost genes also equipped the plants with defenses against pathogens.

Tomatoes lost these genes through good old-fashioned breeding — not via genetic modifications — when breeders selected for traits that made tomatoes robust.

“During the domestication and improvement of the tomato, people mostly focused on traits that would increase production, like fruit size and shelf-life,” Zhangjun Fei, a plant geneticist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who led the new research, said in a statement. “Some genes involved in other important fruit quality traits and stress tolerance were lost during this process.”

The identification of the previously unknown genes could help breeders create better tomatoes. “These new genes could enable plant breeders to develop elite varieties of tomatoes that have genetic resistance to diseases that we currently address by treating the plants with pesticides or other cost-intensive and environmentally unfriendly measures,” James Giovannoni, a molecular biologist at Cornell and USDA scientist, who co-led the work with Fei, said in a statement.

Taste Turnaround

The analysis also revealed a rare form of a gene that imparts tomato flavor to the fruit is missing in most modern, domesticated tomatoes. Yet, more than 90 percent of wild tomatoes have the flavor-punching version of the gene, the researchers report today in the journal Nature Genetics. Their analysis also shows that this flavor gene, called TomLoxC, uses carotenoids — the pigments that make tomatoes red — to make tomatoes tasty.

But there’s also good news for tomato-ravenous Americans, who each eat an average of nearly 100 pounds of the vegetables every year. The flavor gene is making a comeback. The rare version of TomLoxCused used to only be present in about 2 percent of tomato varieties. But in recent years, as breeders have begun to focus more on flavor, more and more modern tomato varieties have the gene. Nowadays, about 7 percent of tomatoes have it, meaning breeders have started selecting for it, Giovannoni explained, a trend that will hopefully keep growing.


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99 Replies | Last update 12 months ago | Last comment

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Good info

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Nice write up,  I have been disturbing with how its now I grab,  now is clear

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    I love this article. I like discoveries. It broadens my knowledge. Thanks for the information.

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Thanks for the information 

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Science has really don a great job. Kudos to scientist

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Wow nice one thanks for the information 

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Thanks for the update and information, it's quite educative

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Hmmm

  • »
     
    12 months ago


     

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    indeed this is a great write up...i noticed it but never got answers but now i have got my answers

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Good

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Now i know

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    They are doing tomatoes analysis check

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    They are doing tomatoes analysis check

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    This is great

     

  • »
     
    12 months ago
    thanks for the information we really appreciate
  • »
     
    12 months ago

    So that's the reason behind that taste all this while, good time know 

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    This is a great discovery by scientists. We definitely need to improve the taste of our tomatoes.

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Am glad to be a member of this platform because i learnt everyday thanks for this information.

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Good research work. More power to your elbow.

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Beautiful

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Thanks pearl. This is very enlighten. 

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Thanks pearl. This is very enlighten. 

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Okay 

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Good

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    very lovely

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Good

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Thanks so much for dis piece of informattion

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Tnks for the clarification

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Thanks to them for the recent research

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Thanks for the information 

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Now I understand

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Thanks for the information 

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Great discovery! 

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    More finding out about tomatoes and food sauce makes us so weak.

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Hmmmm 

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Cudos to food scientists on their tireless research. More enabeling grace to them.

  • »
     
    12 months ago


     

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Thanks for the update 

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Very Good Thanks for the information

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Okey

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    That's great 

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Thanks for this information 

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Thanks for this broden knowledge piece. 

     

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Stire bought paste are made with some chemicals in the name of preservative 

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Interested

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    OK

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Was this research also done in Nigeria?

  • »
     
    12 months ago

    Tomate is a fruit that contain plenty nutrient. Preservation of tomatoes is good.

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