Genomic analysis could yield new pears
by Mike Knowles - Fruitnet - 02 October 2012
Scientists in New Zealand say they have taken a major step closer to being able to develop varieties of pear with new characteristics.
According to Plant & Food Research, which analysed the genome sequence of the pear and compared it to the sequence for apples, there are a numer of "surprising differences" between the two types of topfruit at DNA level.
The European pear genome, which was sequenced by scientists at Plant & Food Research and the Istituto Agrario di San Michele all’Adige (IASMA) in Italy, has 600m base pairs of DNA encoding around 51,000 genes on 17 chromosomes.
By comparison, the apple has 25 per cent more DNA – 750m base pairs – with 57,000 genes on the same number of chromosomes.
As project leader Dr David Chagné explained, many of the differences between the two fruit correspond to areas of the genome that are responsible for switching genes on or off.
"We hope that by sequencing the genome of the European pear, with its melting flesh and wonderful flavours, and comparing it with the genome sequence of apple and Asian pears, which tend to be crisper, we will be able to identify how flesh texture in these fruits is controlled," said Chagné.
"Ultimately, this will allow us to develop tools to speed up the breeding of new varieties of pear with novel combinations of texture and flavours."