What makes a tomato a tomato? Researchers now know all 35,000 genes that make up the answer to that question, Reuters reports. An international team of scientists has fully mapped the order, orientation, types, and relative position of all those genes inside both a domesticated and a wild tomato strain. The results, published yesterday in Nature, should help breeders engineer tastier and more nutritious variations.
The team examined the Heinz 1706 breed of domesticated tomato, and its wild cousin, Solanum pimpinellifolium. "For any characteristic of the tomato, whether it's taste, natural pest resistance or nutritional content, we've captured virtually all those genes," says one of the Americans on the 300-strong team. "Now we can start asking a lot more interesting questions about fruit biology, disease resistance, root development, and nutritional qualities." (Read more genome stories.)