In a world first, an international team, which included Japanese researchers, said Thursday it has fully decoded the genome of a tomato.
The achievement is expected to help in the development of tomato varieties that will survive pests and pathogens better and will be richer in nutrients, pundits said.
The 14-nation team, including members of the Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture-based Kazusa DNA Research Institute, started the genome-decoding project in 2003. The institute announced draft genome data in 2009.
The full tomato genome sequence was published online by the British science journal Nature.
In the research, participants sequenced the full genetic code of a domesticated tomato and established a draft sequence of a wild tomato.
Comparison of the two sets is expected to provide clues to identifying genes that have played leading roles in the change of wild varieties into cultivars, Kazusa members said.
The genome of the domesticated tomato was also compared with genomes of four other Solanaceae plants, including potatoes. As a result, tomatoes and potatoes have been found to share some of the same genes.
The researchers also found the solanum lineage has experienced two consecutive genome triplications, one of which took place some 60 million years ago.
Those events set the stage for the “neofunctionalization” of genes controlling fruit characteristics, such as color and fleshiness, the team said.
Rubber from biomass
Bridgestone Corp. and Ajinomoto Co. said they have jointly developed synthetic rubber from biomass.
The rubber was made from a liquid called isoprene, which was extracted from biomaterials using Ajinomoto’s fermentation technology.
It is the first time that biomass-derived synthetic rubber has been made in Japan.
Synthetic rubber is usually made from crude oil and naphtha, but recycling synthetic rubber-based tires is difficult because the petrochemical materials contain impurities.
The breakthrough could make it easier to recycle synthetic rubber tires, according to the two companies.
Bridgestone and Ajinomoto will end their study on product feasibility by fiscal 2013 with the intention of commercializing it in 2020 at the earliest.
The companies are looking at cassava, corn and cellulose as candidates from which isoprene will be extracted.
But a study should be conducted on isoprene culture technology because it is difficult to extract a large quantity of the substance from biomass, they said.
According to Bridgestone, about 60 percent of tires in Japan are made of natural rubber and the rest are made of synthetic rubber.