Gene leads to longer shelf life for tomatoes, other fruits

June 29th, 2010 - 3:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 29 (IANS) A researcher has found a gene that slows down the ageing process in tomatoes and extends their shelf life by a week.
Avtar Handa, professor of horticulture, Purdue University, found that adding a yeast gene increases production of a compound that slows ageing and delays microbial decay in tomatoes.

“We can inhibit the ageing of plants and extend the shelf life of tomatoes by a week. This basic fundamental knowledge can be applied to other fruits,” Handa said.

The organic compound, spermidine, is a polyamine and is found in all living cells. Polyamine is any of a group of organic compounds, such as spermine and spermidine, composed of carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen.

Handa and Autar Mattoo, a research plant physiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and collaborator in the research, had shown earlier that spermidine and spermine enhance nutritional and processing quality of tomato fruits.

“At least a few hundred genes are influenced by polyamines, maybe more. We see that spermidine is important in reducing ageing. It will be interesting to discover what other roles it can have,” Mattoo said.

Savithri Nambeesan, a graduate student in Handa’s laboratory, introduced the yeast spermidine synthase gene, which led to increased production of spermidine in the tomatoes, said a university release.

Fully ripe tomatoes from gene introduced plants lasted eight days longer as compared to non-transgenic plants. Decay and rot symptoms associated with fungi were delayed by three days.

These findings were published in the online version of The Plant Journal.

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