Fountain of youth for tomatoes discovered

Last Updated: Tue, Jun 29, 2010 07:10 hrs

A yeast gene could actually be the fountain of youth for tomatoes, extending their shelf life by about a week, according to a Purdue University researcher.

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.

He said that the results would likely transfer to most fruits.

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

The organic compound spermidine is a polyamine and is found in all living cells.

Polyamines' functions aren't yet fully understood.

The researchers 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. We see that spermidine is important in reducing aging. It will be interesting to discover what other roles it can have," said Autar Mattoo, research collaborator.

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. 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," said Handa.

Mattoo said the finding could have implications for areas that don't often get fresh fruit.

Handa said tomato growers and possibly other fruit growers could use the finding soon if they wanted through either transgenic plants or natural breeding methods.

The study was published in the early online version of The Plant Journal. (ANI)

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