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Genes that shape tomato plants

Researchers have discovered genes that control leaf patterning and development in tomato plants. This may help breeders manipulate tomato plant growth and improve yields.
Genes that shape tomato plants
Plant architecture describes the organisation of a plant, including its aboveground branching pattern, as well as size, shape, and position of leaves and flowers. The way that branches and leaves form and the complexity of their structures is controlled by regulatory proteins called transcription factors.

Since shoot branching can reduce the yield from a plant's main stem, plant breeders like to reduce the number of branches in crop plants. To simplify this breeding process, the EU-funded TFMORPHOGENCOMPET (The basis of morphogenetic competence in tomato development: A role for trifoliate) initiative wanted to find a gene that controls both branch and leaf development in tomatoes.

TFMORPHOGENCOMPET studied a transcription factor called trifoliate, which potentially acts on plant buds to control their development into branches, leaves or flowers. Researchers studied genes that are activated during different developmental stages of tomato leaves in both normal and trifoliate-deficient mutant plants.

They found that trifoliate affects different genes during the different leaf development stages. They also found no difference between normal and mutant plants in the structures from which shoot branches develop. This indicates that trifoliate is not involved in the early stages of shoot branching. It does, however, control the patterning of tomato leaves.

Since trifoliate appears not to control genes involved in both leaf and shoot branching, it probably cannot be used to manipulate crop plant architecture. In discovering the genes involved in leaf development however, this study may be valuable to European plant breeding companies.

Related information


Tomato, transcription factors, shoot branching, morphogenetic, trifoliate, leaf development
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