BTI Assistant Professor Joyce Van Eck and former postdoctoral scientist Sarika Gupta have developed a better way of “transforming” a tomato where the process involves insertion of DNA into the tomato genome and growing it into a new plant. Auxin which is a growth hormone is added to the medium that helps to speed up the growth of tomato cells, which will eventually help accelerating the speed of their research.They have described this advancement in a study which was published in Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture.
Usually transformation is a process where a soil bacterium known as Agrobacterium tumefaciens is inserted into a new segment of DNA inside the cells of tomato seedling tissues. The transformed cells are transplanted into the plant regeneration medium, that contains hormones and nutrients which causes the tissue to grow into a tiny new plants. These plantlets are then transferred to root induction medium where root will grow and finally planted in soil and hardened in the greenhouse. In this new process, the researchers have added auxin to the regeneration and rooting media. The addition reduces the length of the procedure from 17 weeks to just 11.
Van Eck said that”If you can speed up the plant development, which is what the auxin is doing, you can decrease the time it takes to get genetically engineered lines”.
The scientists have performed the transformation of tomato routinely, as a study method to understand how individual genes affect tomato growth and development. Their new protocol does not only saves time, but uses fewer materials, and saves money. The researchers can finish the experiments sooner and potentially run more projects at once.
This project came out of a collaboration with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory which helps to identify gene pathways that could be used to breed crops with higher yields.
“We’re looking at the genes and gene networks involved in stem cell proliferation, meristem development and flowering and branching with the end goal being that maybe genes that we identify in tomato, which is strictly being used as a model, might help us understand what can be done to increase yield in other crops.” said Vank Eck