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Researchers study genetic mechanism that controls the shape of fruits

The shape of the fruits we consume every day varies. To explain this diversification and to be able to use this knowledge in plant breeding, an international team of scientists studied the cellular, genetic, and molecular bases that diversify the tomato’s shape. The research was recently published in Nature Communications.

Gustavo Rodríguez, an independent researcher of the CONICET at the Research Institute of Agrarian Sciences of Rosario (IICAR, CONICET-UNR), was part of the team led by Esther van der Knaap of the University of Georgia (USA) during his postdoctoral studies and made important contributions to the study of the genetic mechanism that controls the morphological diversity in fruits and other plant organs in plants of agronomic interest.

New knowledge about how fruits are shaped
“We know that proteins of the OVATE and TONNEAU1 recruit motifs (TRM) families influence the determination of the shape of the edible part of different crops; however, we didn’t know if these proteins were related or if they shared similar functions in other plant species. The recently published work shows that the interactions between members of these protein families regulate cell division patterns in developing ovaries and alter the final shape of the fruits," Rodriguez said.

The research also proved that the interactions between these types of proteins are necessary for the dynamic relocation of the protein complex in the different cellular compartments. To reach these conclusions, Rodríguez said they identified the genes, studied the interaction between proteins, and carried out gene editing studies.

"The investigations of this system carried out in other crops, such as potatoes, cucumbers and melons, provide valuable information about the possible mechanisms that regulate morphological variations in plants and a reference framework that can be applied to the growth of these and other organs in all plant species," the researcher stated.

The published work is based on experiments that Rodríguez began when he was developing postdoctoral studies in the United States and data that he continued analyzing in Argentina lately.

New studies
"Currently we continue to collaborate with the Esther van der Knaap Group in a new line of research that aims to elucidate the genetic basis for other mechanisms that determine the shape of tomato fruits. Dr. van der Knaap visited IICAR in 2016 to give seminars about her lines of research and to discuss the results of joint projects and the of our working group," he added.

Javier Pereira da Costa, an assistant researcher of CONICET, Vladimir Cambiaso and Magal Gimenez, postdoctoral fellows of CONICET, doctoral fellows of the Council, Dana Vazquez and Melisa Di Giacomo, Agustina Fortuny, doctoral fellow ANPCyT and Gisela Green, who is currently working in the private sector, also participated in this collaborative project.


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