The genome sequence of the wild tomato species Solanum pennellii is reported in a paper published online this week in Nature Genetics. The study may help to breed tastier, more stress-tolerant tomatoes.
Solanum pennellii is an inedible, wild tomato species from South America. Presently, it is used to improve agriculturally important traits in the edible species, S. lycopersicum, through interbreeding. Bjorn Usadel and colleagues sequenced the genome of the wild species to better understand what genes contribute to various useful traits, such as its ability to withstand stressful conditions. They found genes related to dehydration resistance, fruit development and fruit ripening. They also found genes that contribute to the higher levels of volatile compounds in the wild species, which improve fruit scent and flavor. Many volatile compounds have been lost in the common tomato due to selection against bitter flavors.
The S. pennellii genome will also help researchers interested in tomato evolution and genetics, since this is only the second tomato species to be sequenced.