How fruit's genes make everything seem peachy

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dna, Gene

© iStock
© iStock
Chinese scientists have uncovered how a peach appears “peachy” after identifying genes involved in 12 key qualities of the fruit, from hairiness of the skin to the tartness of the fruit. 

The researchers mined the DNA of 129 ancient and modern peach varieties and found that genes linked to fruit flavour were likely determined by early farming efforts when peaches were first domesticated in China. 

Those linked with increasing fruit weight appear to be down to more recent breeding, however. The research provides valuable genetic data that could be used to inform future breeding efforts.

The perfect peach depends on a personal preference for characteristics including fuzzy, smooth, sweet and tart. The genetic basis for the variations in these different characteristics is described in the study, published in Nature Communications​. 

Lirong Wang, Zhixi Tian and colleagues reported genetic regions that are associated with the 23 traits relevant to the taste and appearance of the fruit.

They mined genome sequencing data generated from a diverse collection of varieties—both modern cultivars that are the result of intensive breeding efforts, as well as traditional landraces and wild relatives of the edible peach. 

A number of correlations between particular gene sequences and fruit traits were observed, such as how the level of acidity in the fruit may be influenced by the altered expression of a gene for a plant hormone transporter.

They found that a peach’s shape may be determined by the expression of a protein related to cell death. 

Such insights are not only important from a practical agronomic perspective, but also help explain how domestication and modern breeding has shaped the genome of an important fruit crop, the researchers said. 

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