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Gene leads to longer shelf life for tomatoes, possibly other fruits
Date:6/28/2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University researcher has found a sort of fountain of youth for tomatoes that extends their shelf life by about a week.

Avtar Handa, a professor of horticulture, found that adding a yeast gene increases production of a compound that slows aging and delays microbial decay in tomatoes. Handa said the results, published in the early online version of The Plant Journal, likely would transfer to most fruits.

"We can inhibit the aging of plants and extend the shelf life of fruits by an additional week for tomatoes," Handa said. "This is basic fundamental knowledge that can be applied to other fruits."

The organic compound spermidine is a polyamine and is found in all living cells. Polyamines' functions aren't yet fully understood. Handa and Autar Mattoo, a research plant physiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and collaborator in the research, had shown earlier that polyamines such as spermidine and spermine enhance nutritional and processing quality of tomato fruits.

"At least a few hundred genes are influenced by polyamines, maybe more," Mattoo said. "We see that spermidine is important in reducing aging. It will be interesting to discover what other roles it can have."

Savithri Nambeesan, who was a graduate student in Handa's laboratory, introduced the yeast spermidine synthase gene, which led to increased production of spermidine in the tomatoes. Fully ripe tomatoes from those plants lasted about eight days longer before showing signs of shriveling compared with non-transgenic plants. Decay and rot symptoms associated with fungi were delayed by about three days.

"It increased the quality of the fruit," Handa said. "If a tomato goes to market, people won't buy it if it has started to shrivel. If we can stop that wrinkling, we can extend the market time of the fruit."

Mattoo said the finding could have implications for
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Contact: Brian Wallheimer
bwallhei@purdue.edu
765-496-2050
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert  

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