30 Aug 2010

Genetic history of the apple now traced

10:18 am on 30 August 2010

Thirteen teams of geneticists from five countries, including one from Plant & Food Research in New Zealand, have traced the genetic history of the apple.

An article in the latest edition of Nature Genetics suggests that the same catastrophe which killed the dinosaurs could have had a major effect on the fruit's evolution.

The teams sequenced more than 600 million pairs of DNA which make up the apple genome.

The research found that the apple separated itself 50 to 65 million years ago from other members of the Rosaceae family, which includes peaches, raspberry and strawberry.

The sequencing revealed that large lengths of apple chromosomes are copied in other chromosomes, which could explain why the apple has 17 chromosomes while other members of the Rosaceae family have between seven and nine.

Dr Roger Hellens from Plant & Food says the research results are significant, because they will allow the identification of genes that control crispness, juiciness and flavour.

Dr Hellens says that understanding how important characteristics in apples are controlled is vitally important to reducing the time taken to breed successful cultivars for commercial production.