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Study uncovers a molecular 'maturation clock' that modulates branching architecture in tomato plants
Date:12/26/2011

Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. The secret to pushing tomato plants to produce more fruit might not lie in an extra dose of Miracle-Gro. Instead, new research from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) suggests that an increase in fruit yield might be achieved by manipulating a molecular timer or so-called "maturation clock" that determines the number of branches that make flowers, called inflorescences.

"We have found that a delay in this clock causes more branching to occur in the inflorescences, which in turn results in more flowers and ultimately, more fruits," says CSHL Assistant Professor Zach Lippman, who led the research team. The new study, which involved a high-resolution, genome-level comparison of the stem cell populations from three tomato varieties that each have different branching architectures, will appear online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of December 26.

When a plant is ready to flower, populations of stem cells, called shoot apical meristems, which are found in the growing tips, stop producing leaves and begin producing flowers by transforming into "inflorescence meristems." Depending on the tomato variety, inflorescences meristems can make just one branch with a few flowers arranged in the familiar, photogenic zigzag pattern (shown), or multiple branches with dozens of flowers, as seen in closely-related wild relatives of tomatoes, which are native to South America.

Although most domesticated varieties, which have been bred to produce edible, delicious fruit, produce a single inflorescence branch with just a few flowers, some varieties make dozens of branches bearing hundreds of flowers. "Although one might think that all this branching is good, too much branching is not a desirable trait, because the plant spends so much energy on making flowers on those branches that it ends up not having the resources to set those flowers into fruits," explains Lippman. "So there ne
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Contact: Hema Bashyam
bashyam@cshl.edu
516-367-8455
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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