From fuzzy to smooth, sweet to tart, the perfect peach is a matter of personal preference, and the genetic basis for variation in these different characteristics is described in a study published this week in Nature Communications.
Lirong Wang and Zhixi Tian and colleagues report genetic regions that are associated with twelve important traits relevant to the taste and appearance of the fruit, providing valuable genetic data that could be used to inform future breeding efforts. They mined genome sequencing data generated from a diverse collection of 129 peach varieties - both modern cultivars that are the result of intensive breeding efforts, as well as traditional landraces and wild relatives of the edible peach.
The authors found evidence that genes associated with traits governing fruit flavour seem to have been primarily selected for by early farmers during the initial domestication of the peach tree in China, whereas genes associated with increasing fruit weight appear to be associated with more recent breeding. A number of correlations between particular gene sequences and fruit traits are observed. For example, the level of acidity in the fruit may be influenced by altered expression of a gene for a plant hormone transporter, and peach shape may be determined by the expression of a protein related to cell death.
Such insights are not only important from a practical agronomic perspective, but also help explain how domestication and modern breeding has shaped the genome of an important fruit crop.