Are juicier, sweeter, more disease-resistant watermelons on the way? An international consortium of more than 60 scientists from the United States, China, and Europe has published the genome sequence of watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) — information that could dramatically accelerate watermelon breeding toward production of a more nutritious, tastier and more resistant fruit. The watermelon genome sequence was published in the Nov. 25 online version of the journal Nature Genetics.
The researchers discovered that a large portion of disease resistance genes were lost in the domestication of watermelon. With the high-quality watermelon sequence now complete, it is hoped that breeders can now use the information to recover some of these natural disease defenses.
The authors reported that the genome of the domesticated watermelon contained 23,440 genes, roughly the same number of genes as in humans. The group compared the genomes of 20 different watermelons and developed a first-generation genetic variation map for watermelon. This information allowed them to identify genomic regions that have been under human selection, including those associated with fruit color, taste and size.
"Watermelons are an important cash crop and among the top five most consumed fresh fruits; however, cultivated watermelons have a very narrow genetic base, which presents a major bottleneck to its breeding. Decoding the complete genome of the watermelon and resequencing watermelons from different subspecies provided a wealth of information and toolkits to facilitate research and breeding," said Zhangjun Fei, a scientist at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research at Cornell University, and one of the leaders of this project.
Fei worked with BTI scientists on different aspects of the research, including James Giovannoni, to generate the gene expression data through RNA-sequencing and Lukas Mueller to provide additional analysis to confirm the quality of the genome assembly. Fei also collaborated with Amnon Levi, a research geneticist at the USDA-ARS, U.S. Vegetable Laboratory, Charleston, S.C., on genetic mapping and identifying candidate genes that might be useful to enhance disease resistance in watermelon. The genome sequences of the watermelon are publicly available at the Cucurbit Genomics Database, which is created and maintained by Fei's group.
Believed to have originated in Africa, watermelons were cultivated by Egyptians more than 4,000 years ago, where the fruit was a source of water in dry, desert conditions. They are now consumed throughout the world – with over 400 varieties in global commercial production. China leads in global production of the fruit, and the United States ranks fourth with more than 40 states involved in the industry. Despite being over 90 percent water, watermelons do contain important nutrients such as vitamins A and C, and lycopene, a compound that gives some fruits and vegetables their red color and appears to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Watermelon is also a natural source of citrulline, a non-essential amino acid with various health and athletic performance benefits.
Cornell University: http://pressoffice.cornell.edu
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
A veteran EMT and ambulance driver in Boston, Ed McCarthy is in a great position to understand his hometown spatially. But he’s also a history geek, and while constantly driving around the city’s neighborhoods, he loves recognizing the streets, buildings and other locales from the history books he so often buries his nose in.
The extinction of the biggest shark known to science may have triggered whales to grow to their current hefty sizes, a study suggests.
The UK's chief scientist says the oceans face a serious and growing risk from man-made carbon emissions.
Modifying neurons to flash as electrical impulses pass along them lets researchers grow light-up brains in a dish and eavesdrop on their chatter
They lived on a remote dot of land in the middle of the Pacific, 2,300 miles (3,700 km) west of South America and 1,100 miles (1,770 km) from the closest island, erecting huge stone figures that still stare enigmatically from the hillsides.
In a bleak, treeless landscape high in the southern Peruvian Andes, bands of intrepid Ice Age people hunkered down in rudimentary dwellings and withstood frigid weather, thin air and other hardships.
A viral video shows people lauding fare billed as an "organic" fast-food option that was actually McDonald's. It wasn't just pranksters playing tricks on these poor folks, but maybe their brains, too.
Deinocheirus mirificus, or unusual horrible hand, had long, clawed forearms, a sail on its back and a duck-like bill
Open letter says claims made for brain games are not based on sound evidence and that playing them may have opposite effect
A significant Bronze Age pottery find is made during an archaeological dig on the east side of Lewis, in Scotland.