A chemical genetic roadmap to improved tomato flavor

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Science  27 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6323, pp. 391-394
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal1556

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Looking for lost flavor in tomatoes

Commercially available tomatoes are renowned these days for sturdiness, but perhaps not for flavor. Heirloom varieties, on the other hand, maintain the richer flavors and sweeter tomatoes of years past. Tieman et al. combined tasting panels with chemical and genomic analyses of nearly 400 varieties of tomatoes. They identified some of the flavorful components that have been lost over time. Identification of the genes that have also gone missing provides a path forward for reinstating flavor to commercially grown tomatoes.

Science, this issue p. 391


Modern commercial tomato varieties are substantially less flavorful than heirloom varieties. To understand and ultimately correct this deficiency, we quantified flavor-associated chemicals in 398 modern, heirloom, and wild accessions. A subset of these accessions was evaluated in consumer panels, identifying the chemicals that made the most important contributions to flavor and consumer liking. We found that modern commercial varieties contain significantly lower amounts of many of these important flavor chemicals than older varieties. Whole-genome sequencing and a genome-wide association study permitted identification of genetic loci that affect most of the target flavor chemicals, including sugars, acids, and volatiles. Together, these results provide an understanding of the flavor deficiencies in modern commercial varieties and the information necessary for the recovery of good flavor through molecular breeding.

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