International research consortium sequences tomato genome

The Tomato Genome Consortium (TGC), a group of over 300 scientists from 14 countries, including India, has sequenced the genomes of the domesticated tomato and its wild ancestor, Solanum pimpinellifolium.

This achievement is expected to lower costs and speed up efforts to improve tomato production worldwide, making it better equipped to combat the pests, pathogens, drought and diseases that now plague growers, M K Bhan, secretary in the department of biotechnology of the Government of India, said today.
The work, which may also speed up improvements in other crops, is published in this week's issue of Nature as cover story.

''India contributed sequence of euchromatic region with emphasis on chromosome 5 of tomato and provided support to generate 5-fold sequence coverage of the entire tomato genome by next generation sequence (NGS) technology,'' main contributor to the project and director of National Institute of Plant Genome Research,  Akhilesh Kumar Tyagi, said.

The sequences provide a detailed overview at the functional portions of the tomato genome and its closest relative, revealing the order, orientation, types and relative positions of their 35,000 genes.

These will help researchers decipher the relationships between tomato genes and traits and broaden their understanding of genetic and environmental factors that interact to determine a field crop's health and viability, Tyagi said.

Tomato is a member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family, and the new sequences are expected to provide reference points helpful for identifying important genes in tomato's relatives.