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Strawberries by design

Researchers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) and the Department of Horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech have developed a new procedure for the efficient transfer of specific DNA sequences into the genome of strawberry. The scientists have used Agrobacterium tumefaciens, nature's genetic engineer, to introduce DNA into the woodland or alpine strawberry Fragaria vesca.

The method takes advantage of Agrobacterium's circular DNA molecule (T-DNA) to deliver DNA to the plant. By helping researchers establish the function of large numbers of strawberry genes, this method could, in the long term, be extremely useful in enhancing the nutritional value of these plants as well as the amount of health-enhancing antioxidants that they may contain.

Jerzy Nowak, professor and head of the Department of Horticulture at Virginia Tech, commented: "Over the years, scientists have worked hard to find a system that would enable the efficient transformation of strawberry. However, these efforts have fallen short of the requirements to support large-scale studies of gene function in fruit crops." He added: "What sets this work apart is the concerted approach adopted by the researchers to combine different parameters that boost the efficiency by which foreign DNA is introduced into this economically important crop."

Herb S. Aldwinckle, professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at Cornell University, Geneva, New York, who has developed highly efficient techniques for transforming apple, remarked: "The commercial strawberry familiar to most consumers is octoploid, which means that it contains eight sets of chromosomes. By using a close relative that has two sets of chromosomes and a significantly smaller genome, the researchers have found a particular type of alpine strawberry that is very amenable to transformation." He added: "The transformation rate achieved is the result of innovation and great attention
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Source:Virginia Tech


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