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Engineering tomato against environmental stress

Objective

Ozone and other air pollutants may cause major crop losses in today's agriculture, and predictions suggest that this problem will only aggravate in the near future, in spite of current efforts to control anthropogenic emissions into the atmosphere. Although the problem is generally well recognized (EU directives 92/72/EEC; 96/62/EC), estimates on actual crop losses are very approximate. Moreover, our understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms does not allow to appraise indirect losses, due for example to increased susceptibility to biotic and abiotic stress.

The objectives of this proposal are
i) to provide data on ozone effects on tomato growth and fruit quality in both controlled chambers and open-top chambers in the field for the improvement of current critical levels for ozone,
ii) to further our understanding on the role of two factors that are thought to be determining for air pollution sensitivity, i.e. ethylene and antioxidant enzymes,
iii) to assess whether reduced susceptibility to air pollution and other oxidative stress conditions can be attained through genetic engineering of antioxidant enzymes.

Tomato is chosen as a model plant because there are indications that this high input crop is sensitive to environmental stresses such as ozone and high light, it is amenable to transgene technology (in fact, it is amongst the first transgenic products to be released on the European market), and it is a crop of great nutritional value (being in many cases the major source of vitamin C intake) and economical importance.

The competitiveness of Mediterranean tomatoes may be leveled up by reducing the susceptibility of the tomato fruit to environmental stress. U.S. tomatoes are harvested at an earlier, and therefore less sensitive, stage of fruit maturation. It is emphasized that, despite its economical importance, the study of air pollutants and oxidative stress in vegetable crops, and particularly in tomato fruit, is scientifically largely unexplored and therefore a novel contribution.

This proposal brings together partners with proven expertise in different fields: plant biochemistry and indoor simulation of environmental conditions (GSF); plant environmental biology and physiology (CIEMAT), plant pathology (UPV), molecular aspects of oxidative stress (VIB,UH)~ molecular biology and biochemistry of tomato fruit (UNOTT), and biotechnology of tomato (ZPS).

Because of the complementarity within our consortium architecture, we are uniquely positioned for a "holistic" (top to bottom as well as bottom to top) approach of air pollutant stress in plants. Combining environmental, physiological, biochemical, and molecular studies within the same project on a single model plant is imperative for understanding air pollutant effects on plants in its various aspects and for designing remedy strategies with current plant biotechnology techniques.

Coordinator

FORSCHUNGSZENTRUM FUR UMWELT UND GESUNDHEIT GMBH
Address
Ingolstädter Landstrasse 1
85764 Neuherberg
Germany

Participants (6)

FLANDERS INTERUNIVERSITY INSTITUTE FOR BIOTECHNOLOGY V.Z.W.
Belgium
Address
Ledeganckstraat 35
9000 Gent
FUNDACION CENTRO DE ESTUDIOS AMBIENTALES DEL MEDITERRANEO
Spain
Address
Parque Tecnologico De Paterna, Calle/4, Sector Oeste, Edificio 3A
46980 Paterna - Valencia
THE UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM
United Kingdom
Address
Sutton Bonington Campus
LE12 5RD Loughborough
UNIVERSIDAD POLITECNICA DE VALENCIA
Spain
Address
Camino De Vera, 14
46022 Valencia
UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI
Finland
Address
9,Viikinkaari 9 Biocentre 1A
00014 Helsinki
ZENECA LTD
United Kingdom
Address
Jealott's Hill Research Station
RG42 6EY Bracknell