Scientists find genetic information behind tastier tomatoes

A group of University of Florida biotech and life science researchers say they have discovered the genetic pathway to a tomato with better flavor and aroma without sacrificing other important features like yield and fruit size.

“Any flavor you savor when you bite into the (tomato) fruit comes from a combination of many aroma compounds. Some of those compounds contain nitrogen, and they add fruity, floral and tomato vine profiles to the flavor mix,” according to a University of Florida blog.

The researchers, lead by Harry Klee, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (UF/IFAS) professor emeritus, and Charles Goulet, a plant science professor at Universite Laval in Quebec City, Canada, discovered a pathway to several important nitrogen-containing tomato taste molecules, the blog said.

In a newly published study, scientists showed that five of the compounds are part of a biochemical pathway for the synthesis of these important flavor compounds. The scientists said they discovered the genetic information required for the production of detectable nitrogenous volatiles in tomatoes by using a closely similar fruit, Solanum pennellii, said Denise Tieman, a UF/IFAS research assistant professor of horticultural sciences.

The researchers were able to pinpoint a stage in the road to nitrogen-containing taste molecules as a result of this data. “Now that we know how these compounds are made in tomatoes, we can identify varieties that have the heirloom version of the enzyme and high levels of these flavor compounds, and we can breed this trait into modern tomatoes to improve flavor,” Tieman noted.

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