Tweaking carotenoid genes helps tomatoes bring their A-game — ScienceDaily

Cooked, fresh, sun-dried, or juiced, whichever way you prefer them, tomatoes are arguably one of the most versatile fruits on the planet — and yes, despite mainly being used in savory dishes, tomatoes really are a fruit.

The popularity of tomatoes has led to the development of more than 10,000 cultivars of various sizes, shapes, and hues. Interestingly though, there is little genetic diversity among modern tomato varieties. This lack of diversity, coupled with the fact that many traits are controlled by multiple genes, makes improving plant yield and quality a major challenge for tomato breeders.

But in a study published this week in Scientific Reports, researchers led by the University of Tsukuba explain how modern gene editing technology may be able to give tomato breeders a helping hand.

“The tomato was the first genetically modified food to be approved for human consumption,” says senior author of the study Professor

Read More

How Hackers Could Trick Unwitting Scientists Into Producing Dangerous Genes

Illustration for article titled How Hackers Could Trick Unwitting Scientists Into Producing Dangerous Genes

Photo: Juan Mabromata (Getty Images)

In a new letter to the editor pulled from the prestigious scientific journal Nature, a team of Israeli researchers pose a frankly wild-sounding question: could a computer hack result in a scientist being swindled into creating a piece of genetic code that’s harmful—or potentially toxic—rather than helpful?

The answer seems to be yes, albeit with some pretty weighty caveats. The “end-to-end cyberbiological attack” described above requires some lackluster cybersecurity chops from both sides of the genetic research supply chain: both the academics who might order genetic materials online, and the labs that might supply those materials back. While this sort of attack hasn’t been seen in the wild yet, the research team behind the letter pointed out that it’s not outside the realm of possibility—especially as more and more genetic research moves into the digital realm.

At the heart of this

Read More

Mother’s touch lingers in her child’s genes — ScienceDaily

Mothers leave their mark on their children in many ways — and Australian researchers have discovered a protein called SMCHD1 is involved in this ‘imprinting’ process.

SMCHD1 switches certain genes off, altering how a cell behaves. The new research has revealed that when an egg cell (or oocyte) is fertilised by a sperm, the egg cell’s SMCHD1 lingers within the developing embryo, switching off at least 10 different genes and impacting the embryo’s development — which could potentially have a lifelong impact on the offspring.

The research was published in eLife by a WEHI team led by Ms Iromi Wanigasuriya, Dr Quentin Gouil and Professor Marnie Blewitt, in collaboration with WEHI’s Dr Matthew Ritchie, Dr Heather Lee from the University of Newcastle and Associate Professor Karla Hutt from Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute.

At a glance

  • Some genes have different expression, depending on whether they have been inherited from the mother
Read More

Genes that give plant nucleus its shape discovered, also regulate copper tolerance — ScienceDaily

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have identified how the architecture of the cell nucleus can change gene activity in plants. This discovery reveals fundamental knowledge about genome regulation and points towards future methods for potentially manipulating the expression of many genes simultaneously.

The long strands of DNA and the protein machinery needed to turn gene expression on or off are contained, floating within the nuclei of cells. The nucleus is essentially a sack made of a flexible, double-membrane envelope that is supported by an inner, fine-mesh frame of proteins called the nuclear lamina.

“DNA does not drift aimlessly within the nucleus. We expect that there is nonrandom spatial positioning of genes around the nuclear lamina,” said Professor Sachihiro Matsunaga who led the research project from the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, recently published in Nature Communications.

Gene regulation is often studied at the one-dimensional level

Read More

A key to the mystery of fast-evolving genes was found in ‘junk DNA’

A long-standing puzzle in evolution is why new genes — ones that seem to arise out of nowhere — can quickly take over functions essential for an organism’s survival.

A new study in fruit flies may help solve that puzzle. It shows that some new genes quickly become crucial because they regulate a type of DNA called heterochromatin. Once considered “junk DNA,” heterochromatin actually performs many important jobs, including acting like a tightly guarded prison: It locks up “bad actor” genes, preventing them from turning on and doing damage.

Heterochromatin is also one of the fastest-changing bits of DNA in the body, so the genes that regulate it have to adapt quickly just to keep up, evolutionary biologist Harmit Malik at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and his colleagues report online November 10 in eLife.

“The work is a milestone,” said Manyuan Long, an evolutionary biologist

Read More

Four countries, five genes, one construct — ScienceDaily

An international long-term research collaboration aimed at creating high yielding and water use efficient rice varieties, has successfully installed part of the photosynthetic machinery from maize into rice.

“We assembled five genes from maize that code for five enzymes in the C4 photosynthetic pathway into a single gene construct and installed it into rice plants,” said lead author Dr Maria Ermakova, who works at The Australian National University (ANU), as part of the international C4 Rice Project, led by Oxford University.

Rice, one of the main world food staples, uses the less efficient C3 photosynthetic pathway. Scientists predict that the introduction of the more efficient C4 photosynthesis traits into rice can potentially increase photosynthetic efficiency by fifty percent, improve nitrogen use efficiency and double water use efficiency.

“Although introducing all the genes required to make C4 rice still a long way off, this is the first paper where we assembled

Read More

UConn researcher identifies genes and regulatory elements critical to heart development

The advent of genome science has given researchers an unprecedented ability to understand the root causes of a host of conditions. Justin Cotney, assistant professor of genetics and genome sciences in the UConn School of Medicine, has used this technology to identify a suite of genes and regulatory elements critical to normal heart development.

In a paper published in the October issue of Circulation Research, Cotney outlines the importance of “hub genes” in heart development. Hub genes operate like the hub of a wheel; they serve as the center from which many other “spokes” radiate and follow their lead in terms of when and to what extent they are expressed.

By studying a massive dataset of 125,000 control patients’ genomes amassed from other studies in the Genome Aggregation Database (gnomAD), Cotney and his team identified a set of genes and regulators

Read More

New COVID-19 related genes — helpful and harmful — found in massive screen — ScienceDaily

Researchers at Yale University and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard screened hundreds of millions of cells exposed to the COVID-19 and MERS viruses and identified dozens of genes that both enable the viruses to replicate in cells and also those that seem to slam the door on the virus.

The pro-viral and anti-viral role of these genes will help guide scientists in development of new therapies to combat COVID-19, the researchers say.

The findings were reported Oct. 26 in the journal Cell.

Scientists have previously identified how the SARS-CoV-2 coronovirus, which causes COVID-19, attaches to and invades cells, but less is known about why some cells are more susceptible to infection. Understanding the genetics behind the host cells’ susceptibility to infection may help explain why some people exposed to the virus experience few or no symptoms and others become extremely ill or die.

For the study, researchers

Read More