Tomatoes are already known to be a good model species for research in plants, but researchers have made it easier by cutting the time required to modify their genes by six weeks.
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 the 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 to accelerate the speed of their research. They have described this advancement in a study that 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, which contains hormones and nutrients which cause the tissue to grow into tiny new plants. These plantlets are then transferred to the root induction medium where the 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