MSU Researchers Uncover “Parallel Universe” in Tomato Genetics

In a new paper appearing April 24, 2024 in Science Advances, Michigan State University researchers have unraveled a surprising genetic mystery centered on sugars found in what gardeners know as “tomato tar.” Anyone who has pruned tomato plants barehanded has likely found their fingers darkened with a sticky, gold-black substance that won’t quite wash off. This tomato tar is sticky for good reason. It’s made of sugars — acylsugars, to be precise — and acts as a sort of natural flypaper for would-be pests. The open-access article is titled “Tomato Root Specialized Metabolites Evolved Through Gene Duplication and Regulatory Divergence Within a Biosynthetic Gene Cluster.”
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