Tomatoes are a major nutrient for humans. In 2004, 120,000 tonnes of tomatoes were harvested worldwide - and every year this number increases. Numerous medical studies have shown the health value of tomatoes. Lycopen, the pigment that makes tomatoes red, can for example prevent heart disease. Tomatoes furthermore contain a lot of vitamins C and E, indispensable for human nourishment. But after centuries of cultivation for shape, colour, and other useful qualities, our cultured tomatoes today are of small genetic diversity, in comparison with wild types. This has affected the taste and health value of the fruits.
To cultivate tomato strains with particular characteristics, researchers have to increase the genetic diversity of cultured tomatoes. This can be done either by cross-breeding them with wild tomatoes, or changing their genetic make-up technologically. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology in Golm, and their Israeli colleagues at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, chose the second option. They investigated strains of tomatoes created from the crossing of cultured and wild types. Their goal was to identify the biochemical composition of fruits and determine which factors control their development. The German-Israeli research team used a method of analysis developed at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physio