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Video transcript: International consortium sequences tomato genome

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May 2012

Video shows a still stating the genome of the tomato has been discovered

Professor Graham Seymour, The University of Nottingham
Its going to be a complete game changer for horticultural crops, amazingly important.

Video shows a still stating 300 scientists from 14 countries were involved in the research

Dr Gerard Bishop, Imperial College London
Its a huge step forward, its a blue print for the rest of how we are going to carry out science in the future.

Video shows a still stating Professor Seymour and Dr Bishop led the UK research

Professor Graham Seymour, The University of Nottingham
I am sure that most people are familiar with this type of tomato which you see in bins in supermarkets and this one has travelled very well, it is resistant to spoilage but it doesn't actually often taste very nice, it just lasts a long time and what we really want is we want tomatoes which are like this which are very very red, very very tasty but normal tomato fruit and of course many other fruit are very very perishable products. So what we have actually done is to sequence the genetic code of tomato.

Video shows the two scientists discussing the research, then pans around a branch of plum-like tomatoes. (Shots of the greenhouse and the tomatoes throughout the video.) Then the video shows them working in the greenhouse.

The reason why that is important because tomatoes are one of the most important fruit crops in the world in fact the tomato crop world wide both sort of fresh and process material is worth about is estimated £30 - 40 billion dollars a year and tomatoes provide a huge number of important vitamins, minerals and other sorts of plant chemicals that promote health in the human diet that is basically because we eat a lot of tomatoes not just the fresh ones, but we eat tomato sauce, tomatoes on pizzas topping and so on and so forth so human beings eat a lot of tomato products and so knowing the genetic code is a way we can have a rational approach to breeding better quality tomatoes and also tomatoes that may be can resist drought more effectively if they are grown out in the field or have a better fruit quality because after all that is part of the crop that we eat and maybe have fruit that perhaps will last longer but taste a lot better and actually contain more of the important bio actives which we know protect people against cancer and heart disease. There is a whole international community that came together to sequence the tomato genome.

Dr Gerard Bishop, Imperial College London
One of the great benefits of having the genome sequence is that we can start to pull in genes from wild species of tomato that are more well adapted to live in dry dessert conditions and tomato originally comes from Peru and some of the worlds species that are available in some of the desserts in Peru we can then start to breed in those traits more quickly and more exactly and by looking at the gene sequences that are present in the crosses that we make.

Professor Graham Seymour, The University of Nottingham
Because we can now read the tomato book as it were we can see where all the genes are,...

Video shows a detailed DNA chart of a tomato

...which chromosomes they are on and the gene order as well. We can now begin to associate particular genes with characteristics such as fruit firmness, or taste so on and so forth so we can actually identify the genes that are responsible...

Video shows a graphical representation of the genetic code 

...and then you can then go to wild tomato species and find variants of those genes that may slow softening down or enhance certain flavour characteristics and you can use conventional breeding to breed those effects into the cultivated background but because you know the gene involved you can use markers for that gene to speed up and make more precise the breeding process.

It will hugely reduce waste where fruit is just thrown away because they go off before they are eaten and there is another twist to this actually because tomatoes have long been used as the model for understanding fruit ripening and it turns out that the genes that control tomato fruit ripening similar genes are actually present in other types of fruits so what you might be surprised to know is that genes can control ripening in tomato fruit very similar genes actually control the ripening of other very different fruits such as strawberries and bananas so in the future it should be possible to manipulate ripening in strawberries and bananas as well.

Video shows a variety of fruit in a basket

This is an important crop and we want to make sure that more people are eating tomatoes because of the health benefits and other fruit.

ENDS

Credits

The UK contribution to the tomato genome sequencing project was carried out in collaboration with The Genome Analysis Centre and the James Hutton Institute.

The UK research was funded by BBSRC, Defra and the Scottish Government.

The sequencing was undertaken by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.