Researchers Sequence Sweet, Juicy Genome

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In the last decade scientists have managed to sequence the genomes of everything from bacteria and fruit flies to individual human beings. But often overlooked are the genomic sequences of our food. We know the genomes of apples, bananas, potatoes, wheat, rice and now watermelon.

A consortium of scientists from the United States, China and Europe has published the complete genome of the domesticated watermelon—one of the top five consumed fresh fruits—in the journal Nature Genetics. [Shaogui Guo et al., The draft genome of watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) and resequencing of 20 diverse accessions]

The group compared the genomes of 20 different watermelons across three different subspecies and found it takes roughly the same number of genes to make the sweet summer fruits as it does to make us.

They researchers also found that, in the process of being selected for color, size and taste, domestic watermelon lost many of the genes that helped their wild ancestors resist disease. They hope that breeders can now use the genetic info to recover some of those natural disease defenses—as well as bringing a more nutritious, and tastier fruit to your table. Without the seeds, of course.

—Gretchen Cuda Kroen

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

[Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.]


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