The tomato is one of the most important vegetables on our dinner plates. From cherry tomatoes to beef tomatoes, there’s an enormous assortment to choose from, if you know where to find them. Many of the tomatoes commonly available in supermarkets derive from an accelerated breeding process known as smart breeding. The technique is based on genetic analyses and the presence of molecular markers in the genome of a plant.
Orientation markers in the genome
Molecular markers are characteristic differences in the DNA sequences of individual plant lines. If these markers are known, they can be detected using molecular diagnostics techniques, and are typically distributed over the different chromosomes of the plant genome. In most cases, they will be inherited alongside the features that are of interest for breeders. The knowledge of the location and characteristics of these markers can make the breeding processes of new plant varieties quicker and considerably more precise.
Markers for vegetable breeding
The company TraitGenetics GmbH in Gatersleben, which was founded at the turn of the millennium, specialises in the development of molecular markers for crop plants such as cereals, vegetables and ornamental plants. Between 2010 and 2012, the plant experts at TraitGenetics identified many thousands of so-called SNP markers in the tomato genome in work that took place in the framework of the “SME Innovative: Biotechnology” funding measure. SNP stands for single nucleotide polymorphism, and across different tomato lines, these molecular markers will commonly differ by only a single DNA building block.
Assistance for SME for plant breeding research
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has provided €693,000 of funding for the research and development project pursued by the plant breeders in Gatersleben. “We have also carried out detailed sequencing of eight different tomato genomes,” reports managing director Martin Ganal. As part of an international collaboration, TraitGenetics has gone on to develop a DNA microchip on the basis of these results.
The company in Gatersleben now offers marker analyses as a service for breeding activities. In the course of the project, the experts at TraitGenetics also identified thousands of new SNP markers that provided the foundations for the development of commercial genotyping chips for plant breeding.