Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cancer Cell Growth Appears Related To Evolutionary Development Of Plump Fruits And Vegetables, Cornell Researchers Find

Date:
July 10, 2000
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
The genetic mechanism that through millennia of evolution has created plump and juicy fruits and vegetables could also be involved in the proliferation of human cancer cells.

ITHACA, N.Y. -- The genetic mechanism that through millennia of evolution has created plump and juicy fruits and vegetables could also be involved in the proliferation of human cancer cells.

Plant biologists and computer scientists at Cornell University have essentially made a direct genetic connection between the evolutionary processes involved in plant growth and the processes involved in the growth of mammalian tumors.

Studying the genetic map of the tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum), the researchers found a "plumping" characteristic in a single gene called ORFX -- traits that are expressed early in the plant's floral development. The protein sequence obtained from the gene was predicted by computational data to be similar to the human oncogene c-H-ras p21, suggesting a common mechanism in the cellular processes leading to large, edible fruit in plants and cancer in humans. The research is detailed in the latest edition (July 7) of Science.

"We're beginning to understand that there are very common mechanisms that create life," says Steven D. Tanksley, Cornell Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor of plant breeding and the lead author of the research paper. "This is a case where we found a connection between agricultural research in how plants make edible fruit and how humans become susceptible to cancer. That's a connection nobody could have made in the past.

"In this era of genomics, many people are looking at divergent organisms, and we're starting to realize connections we never imagined," Tanksley says.

The discovery springs from the Cornell researchers' attempts to identify the remote evolutionary changes that led to the bountiful produce associated with modern agriculture. Tanksley explains that wild fruit and vegetable varieties were not always fit for human consumption. Usually they were too scrawny to provide much nourishment. But over millennia, not only did humans cross plants, but the plants also crossed themselves. Thus, many varieties became fleshy enough to eat.

Corn kernels were not originally succulent, and wild tomatoes looked more like red blueberries. "When you see a beautiful ear of corn, you're actually looking at a gross exaggeration of the corn's real anatomy. Tomatoes and all other fruits and vegetables show the same thing, compared with their ancestors. They have gross exaggerations of the specific particular parts of their anatomy -- their fruit for example -- valued by humans," says Tanksley.

If not for this mechanism, humans would not have developed beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and modern civilizations would not have been born. "We're now codependents with domesticated fruits and vegetables. Without them, we can't sustain ourselves, and without us the domesticated plants can't sustain themselves either," says Tanksley. "The humans and the plants have been caught up in a dance of co-evolution."

The Cornell researchers were able to peer into the primeval development of food with the aid of computer science. They found a genetic quantitative trait locus, or QTL (the location of specific characteristics on genes), involved in the evolution and domestication of a tomato from small berries to what has become a large fruit. The ORFX gene, located at fw2.2 on the plant's DNA, changes fruit weight by up to 30 percent. The researchers say this gene is a key to domesticating wild plants.

The discovery might have taken decades if the researchers had used conventional methods. After obtaining the nucleotide sequence from the gene, which in turn provided the protein sequence, Tanksley collaborated with Ron Elber, Cornell professor of computer science and acting director of the Center for Parallel Processing Resources for Biomedical Scientists at Cornell. Using a computational biology program developed at the Cornell Theory Center, the scientists created a three-dimensional structure from the protein sequence. The software they used is called the Learning, Observing and Outputting of Protein Patterns (LOOPP), which matches sequences and protein structures.

Elber and researcher Jaroslaw Meller matched the novel tomato sequence with known three-dimensional protein shapes and found a hit. Using as a template the structure of the ras (human oncogene) protein, they were able to identify some of the protein's specific chores. "Putting the protein into 3-D shape gave us guidelines for what to look for, and to see the critical amino acids," says Elber. "Without any hints, it is difficult."

The algorithm developed by Meller and Elber at Cornell is exceptionally efficient. It identified the tomato gene in less than a minute.

Says Tanksley: "It's astounding this kind of research could be done at the speed at which it was done. This would have been impossible a few years ago."

Other authors of the Science paper, "fw2.2: A Quantitative Trait Locus Key to the Evolution of Tomato Fruit Size," are researchers Anne Frary and Esther ven der Knaap; visiting fellows T. Clint Nesbitan and Silvana Grandillo; Cornell graduate student Amy Frary; and postdoctoral researchers Meller, Bin Cong and Jiping Liu. The late Kevin B. Alpert, who earned his doctoral degree with Tanksley, was an integral part of the paper's research. Alpert died April 1, 1999, from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The paper was dedicated to him.

The research was funded by the National Research Initiative Cooperative Grants Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Genome Program, the National Science Foundation, the Binational Agriculture Research and Development Fund and the National Institutes of Health National Center for Research Resources.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Cancer Cell Growth Appears Related To Evolutionary Development Of Plump Fruits And Vegetables, Cornell Researchers Find." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 July 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/07/000710071612.htm>.
Cornell University. (2000, July 10). Cancer Cell Growth Appears Related To Evolutionary Development Of Plump Fruits And Vegetables, Cornell Researchers Find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/07/000710071612.htm
Cornell University. "Cancer Cell Growth Appears Related To Evolutionary Development Of Plump Fruits And Vegetables, Cornell Researchers Find." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/07/000710071612.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, cut full-year revenue forecasts because generics could cut into sales of its anti-arthritis drug, Celebrex. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins