Monday, 11 May 2009

Tomato genome: India plays a major role

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: India is playing a key role in sequencing of tomato genome which is all set to boost production of a variety of vegetables and herbal plants including brinjal and ashwagandha.
The sequencing of the chromosome 5 (tomato has 12 chromosomes) is jointly carried out in New Delhi at the University of Delhi South Campus, the National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, the Indian Agriculture Research Institute and the National Centre for Plant Genome Research, JNU campus. The aim of tomato genome sequencing is identification of agronomically useful genes from tomato genome.
Along with tomato genome sequencing reverse genetics methods are being developed to use these genes to improve the genetic make-up of tomato by the techniques of "tilling" at the University of Hyderabad. Researchers at the University of Hyderabad are combining information available from genome sequencing, molecular biology and traditional plant breeding to develop improved tomato plants. Unlike genetically modified food, the tomato plants produced by the University of Hyderabad will contain no foreign DNA.
Senior scientists from different countries have converged on Hyderabad for an international workshop on tomato genomics to give an impetus to the ongoing research and speed up the international collaboration that was entered into in late 2003. The conference began on Sunday. More than 20 countries have jointly started a 10-year initiative on tomato genome, called the "international solanacea genome project".
One of the simplest solanacea plant is tomato which has the lowest size of genome among members of the family. The comparative analysis of tomato genome with other solanacea species showed that tomato genome has high degree of synteny with species such as potato or tobacco.
The tomato genome project gains significance as large populations in India depend on the vegetables for the supply FO essential vitamins, fibre, carbohydrates, antioxidants and other essential dietary supplements. India is the second largest producer of the vegetables in the world after China. Among the vegetables, potato and tomato are top two vegetables grown in the country.
Like tomato and potato, green chillies and tobacco were also introduced in India from America. All these four plants are the members of botanical family Solanaceae. A large number of indigenous solanaceous species such as Atropa belladonna, Datura, Ashwagandha and Makoy are used for their therapeutic value in traditional medicine system in India.
Prof Dani Zamir, chairperson of International SOL genome project, chaired the inaugural session.

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