Neutralizing cryptic mutations in plant breeding

We talk of cryptic mutations when genes are changed in a way that remains hidden until they interact with other mutations. As a result, combining beneficial traits can have negative consequences hindering agricultural production (watch this video from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on unexpected negative interactions). Classic breeders have been dealing with this problem for decades, but researchers from CSHL are finally working on a solution suitable for the genomic era. Zach Lippman and colleagues have studied one infamous cryptic mutation affecting a tomato variety developed by the Campbell Soup Company in the 1960s and discuss an anti-negative-interaction strategy for the future. Please see their paper in Nature Plants and watch the video below offering a cautionary tale for crop gene editing.

Ground-cherries: will they be the next berry crop?

physalis

Physalis fruits look like golden marbles, larger than a blueberry, smaller than a grape. Carl Zimmer tried one, liked the rich pineapple-orange taste and wrote about their crispy future in his new book (“She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity”). Ground-cherries, as they are called, belong to the same family as tomatoes but are an impossible challenge for traditional breeding because they have four copies of each chromosome rather than two. Continue reading