Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Molecular 'maturation clock' modulates branching architecture in tomato plants

Date:
January 6, 2012
Source:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Summary:
The secret to pushing tomato plants to produce more fruit might not lie in an extra dose of Miracle-Gro. Instead, new research suggests that an increase in fruit yield might be achieved by manipulating a molecular timer or so-called "maturation clock" that determines the number of branches that make flowers, called inflorescences.

The secret to pushing tomato plants to produce more fruit might not lie in an extra dose of Miracle-Gro. Instead, new research from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) suggests that an increase in fruit yield might be achieved by manipulating a molecular timer or so-called "maturation clock" that determines the number of branches that make flowers, called inflorescences.

"We have found that a delay in this clock causes more branching to occur in the inflorescences, which in turn results in more flowers and ultimately, more fruits," says CSHL Assistant Professor Zach Lippman, who led the research team. The new study, which involved a high-resolution, genome-level comparison of the stem cell populations from three tomato varieties that each have different branching architectures, will appear online in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of December 26.

When a plant is ready to flower, populations of stem cells, called shoot apical meristems, which are found in the growing tips, stop producing leaves and begin producing flowers by transforming into "inflorescence meristems." Depending on the tomato variety, inflorescences meristems can make just one branch with a few flowers (that will turn into fruit) and arranged in the familiar, photogenic zigzag pattern (shown), or multiple branches with dozens of flowers, as seen in closely-related wild relatives of tomatoes, which are native to South America.

Although most domesticated varieties, which have been bred to produce edible, delicious fruit, produce a single inflorescence branch with just a few flowers, some varieties make dozens of branches bearing hundreds of flowers. "Although one might think that all this branching is good, too much branching is not a desirable trait, because the plant spends so much energy on making flowers on those branches that it ends up not having the resources to set those flowers into fruits," explains Lippman. "So there needs to be a balance, which the wild relatives of tomatoes seem to have achieved."

Previous studies hypothesized that extreme branching might be the result of a pause or a delay in the maturation of inflorescence meristems, causing them to sprout extra branches instead of ending their growth by making flowers. "Our previous work as well as those of others hinted at the existence of a timer or clock," Lippman notes. "We wanted to define this clock at the highest resolution, in terms of the genes that modulate the rate of meristem maturation, with the idea that finding the genes that define the clock would enable us to tweak it to get the desired level of branching."

Using a systems biology approach and next-generation sequencing technology to "capture" the transcriptome -- the activity of all the genes in a genome -- of stem cells at five different stages of maturation, the team identified nearly 4000 genes that represent the clock. With help from CSHL associate professor and computational biologist Michael Schatz, the team, which included post-doctoral researchers Soon-ju Park and Ke Jiang, compared the clocks of a mutant variety that undergoes extreme branching and a wild relative from Peru that undergoes modest branching.

This analysis revealed that subtle differences in the activity of the clock's genes could alter branching architecture. "Our data showed that wild relatives of tomato have evolved to have a slight delay in maturation, which leads to just a few more branches and a doubling of the number of flowers and fruits compared to what is typically found on cultivated tomatoes grown for ketchup or in the home garden," explains Lippman, who is enthusiastic about the implications of this work and the next steps that his team will take. "We now have a master list of candidate genes that we can go after to manipulate the clock in order to make domesticated tomatoes produce a branching architecture that's similar to the wild variety," he says.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program and the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Soon Ju Park, Ke Jiang, Michael C. Schatz, and Zachary B. Lippman. The rate of meristem maturation determines inflorescence architecture in tomato. PNAS, Dec 27, 2011 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1114963109

Cite This Page:

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Molecular 'maturation clock' modulates branching architecture in tomato plants." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111227093053.htm>.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. (2012, January 6). Molecular 'maturation clock' modulates branching architecture in tomato plants. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111227093053.htm
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Molecular 'maturation clock' modulates branching architecture in tomato plants." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111227093053.htm (accessed April 25, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, April 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) A disease that has killed more than six million cave-dwelling bats in the United States is on the move and wildlife biologists are worried. White Nose Syndrome, discovered in New York in 2006, has now spread to 25 states. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blood From World's Oldest Woman Suggests Life Limit

Blood From World's Oldest Woman Suggests Life Limit

Newsy (Apr. 24, 2014) Scientists say for the extremely elderly, their stem cells might reach a state of exhaustion. This could limit one's life span. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Kangaroo Rescued from Swimming Pool

Raw: Kangaroo Rescued from Swimming Pool

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) A kangaroo was saved from drowning in a backyard suburban swimming pool in Australia's Victoria state on Thursday. Australian broadcaster Channel 7 showed footage of the kangaroo struggling to get out of the pool. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Marijuana Use Lead To Serious Heart Problems?

Could Marijuana Use Lead To Serious Heart Problems?

Newsy (Apr. 24, 2014) A new study says marijuana use could lead to serious heart-related complications. Video provided by Newsy
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