University of Georgia

US researchers discover genes that define a vegetable’s shape

From time immemorial, vegetables have come in almost every size and shape. But now, researchers at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences have found the genetic mechanism that controls the shape of our favourite fruits, vegetables and grains.

In article published Nov. 10 in the journal Nature Communications,  professor of Horticulture Esther van der Knaap and her team detail a set of genetic traits, shared by multiple plants, that have been found to control the fruit, leaf or seed shape in each.

“We may be able to explain the shapes of many fruits and vegetables through a similar mechanism to the one we described in tomatoes,” van der Knaap said. “We found that in tomatoes, plant cells in the fruit divide in a column or in a row and that will determine their shape. We also found that this mechanism is likely the same in several other plant species: melons, cucumbers, potatoes. We’ve even been able to go as far as finding that the same mechanism controls the shape of rice grains as well as leaves.”

As part of a National Science Foundation and United States Department of Agriculture-funded projects, this paper expands on van der Knaap’s previous work to locate the genes that account for the wide variety of tomato shapes and sizes.


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