Tomato Fertility Shaped by Crucial Gene

Jenn Hoskins
4th April, 2024

Tomato Fertility Shaped by Crucial Gene

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In a Fujian study, the SlCRCa gene in tomatoes switches cells to become ovules or carpels
  • SlCRCa interacts with SlINO and TAG1 to control SlANT2 levels, affecting ovule development
  • Understanding these gene interactions could help increase seed production in crops
Understanding the intricate process of how plants produce seeds is fundamental to improving crop yields and ensuring food security. At the heart of this process are the development of ovules—the structures that eventually become seeds—and the carpels, which are the female reproductive organs of flowering plants. A recent study from Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University[1] sheds light on how these two components are coordinated in the tomato plant (Solanum lycopersicum), a model organism for flowering plants. The study focuses on a gene named SlCRCa, which is a tomato equivalent of the CRABS CLAW (CRC) gene previously studied in Arabidopsis thaliana[2][3]. The CRC gene has been known to play a role in shaping the carpel and in the development of nectaries. Researchers have now found that SlCRCa also determines the fate of cells in the placental surface where ovules form. When SlCRCa functions properly, it helps cells become ovules; when it's not functioning, these cells can turn into extra carpels instead of ovules. This discovery is crucial because it reveals a genetic switch that controls whether a plant cell becomes part of the seed-producing ovule or part of the supporting carpel structure. Additionally, the study reveals the interaction between SlCRCa and two other genes: SlINO and TAG1, which are tomato versions of genes known to regulate ovule development in Arabidopsis[4]. These interactions repress the activity of another gene, SlANT2, which is related to the AINTEGUMENTA (ANT) gene in Arabidopsis. The ANT gene is known for its role in promoting organ growth. Here, SlANT2's levels determine whether an ovule is initiated or whether the placental tissue becomes more carpel-like. Low levels of SlANT2 favor ovule formation, while high levels lead to the development of carpel tissue. This balance between SlCRCa, SlINO, TAG1, and SlANT2 is a delicate one. The interaction between these genes ensures that ovules can form at the right place and time, and that they develop correctly. The study's findings suggest that the same genes that determine the identity of the carpel also play a role in initiating ovule development. It's a bit like having a multifunctional tool that can switch between different modes depending on the task at hand. The work at Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University builds upon previous research[2][3][4] by providing a clearer picture of the molecular interactions that govern the balance between carpel and ovule identity. Earlier studies had established the roles of various genes in carpel and ovule development, but this new research connects the dots, showing how these genes work together to regulate the development of these reproductive organs. The implications of this study are significant for agriculture. By understanding the genetic basis of ovule formation, scientists can potentially manipulate these processes to increase seed production in crops. This could lead to varieties of plants that are more fruitful, which is especially important in the face of a growing global population and the need for sustainable agricultural practices. In summary, the research from Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University provides insights into the genetic mechanisms that allow for the coordinated development of ovules and carpels in tomatoes. By uncovering the role of SlCRCa in blocking carpel fate and promoting ovule fate, and how it interacts with other genes to regulate this process, the study offers a deeper understanding of plant reproductive biology and opens up new avenues for agricultural innovation.

GeneticsBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) SlCRCa is a key D-class gene controlling ovule fate determination in tomato.

Published 1st April, 2024

Related Studies

2) CRABS CLAW and SPATULA, two Arabidopsis genes that control carpel development in parallel with AGAMOUS.

Journal: Development (Cambridge, England), Issue: Vol 126, Issue 11, Jun 1999

3) CRABS CLAW, a gene that regulates carpel and nectary development in Arabidopsis, encodes a novel protein with zinc finger and helix-loop-helix domains.

Journal: Development (Cambridge, England), Issue: Vol 126, Issue 11, Jun 1999

4) Genetic and molecular interactions between BELL1 and MADS box factors support ovule development in Arabidopsis.

Journal: The Plant cell, Issue: Vol 19, Issue 8, Aug 2007

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