A study conducted by two research institutes from the United States discovered a somewhat curious fact about the behavior of tomato genes. The amount of genetic variations present in these fruits it is so large that it is very difficult to predict how mutations will behave in each individual. 

Like most animals e plants, tomatoes have very different shapes and sizes from one to the other. This is because each fruit has a unique set of genetic variations. 

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In most organisms, the behavior of these genes is somewhat predictable, but in tomatoes it is virtually impossible to know how a specific mutation will affect the plant. However, the work of Professor Zach Lippman, Howard Hughes Medical Institute has been working to change this scenario and predict the effects of these mutations on each species of tomato. 

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Lippman and his team of researchers used a gene editing tool known as CRISPR, which is highly accurate and targeted, in two tomato genes that control the size of the fruit. With that, they managed to generate no less than 60 different mutations, removing only small pieces of DNA of some regions of the genes. 

What has changed?

Different combinations of mutations can affect the size of tomatoes in an unpredictable way. Credit: Lippman lab / CSHL

In some cases, individual mutations significantly increased the size of the fruit, in others, the size of the tomatoes did not even change. In a third combination, the editing of the genes caused a dramatic and unpredictable increase in the size of each fruit. 

"The true Holy Grail in all this for improving crops is predictability," said Lippman. “If I change this sequence, I will achieve this effect. Because there is a sea of ​​other variants that nature has accumulated close to the mutation you are planning ”, completed the researcher. 

This range of interactions for any pair of genes models the consequences of a single mutation that can occur for different genetic origins. This process happens in a similar way in some human diseases, where people can have certain pre-existing mutations that protect them from other mutations that cause diseases. 

Now, Lippman's team will continue to quantify how individual and combined mutations affect tomatoes. So far, the interactions between two modifications have been measured, however, the genes have millions of variations and the teacher hopes to be able to measure them satisfactorily so that these interactions are more predictable and efficient. 

With information Phys.org 

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