Tomato flavour enhancers
Taste is a very complex trait determined by the interaction of a multitude of primary and secondary plant metabolites. Efficient breeding for taste in tomato is hampered by two knowledge gaps: (i) it is still unclear how taste-related metabolites interact and how this interaction influences human taste perception and (ii) the size of many taste QTL intervals is still too large to be efficiently used in breeding. These two knowledge gaps make prioritisation of flavour breeding targets difficult and limit application of marker-assisted selection for taste characteristics in current breeding programs.
The aim of this project is to overcome these knowledge gaps, by elucidating the effect and interactions of three important tomato flavour enhancers (the amino acids glutamate and GABA and the amino acid derived volatile 2-isobutylthiazole) on flavour perception, and by cloning and characterising the key genes underlying the genetic variation for these compounds. This should lead to the development of a taste toolbox that enables efficient breeding for a suite of better-tasting (and more healthy) tomatoes and tomato products for specific consumer groups.
A diet rich in fruit and vegetables aids in preventing age-related diseases, such as coronary heart disease, cancer and dementia, but to increase the consumption of healthy fruit and vegetables, a superb taste is an essential requirement. The basis for a good tasting fruit and vegetable product is determined first and foremost by the genetic potential of the fresh produce itself, and only plant breeding can combine all these properties into one product for the consumer. Two knowledge gaps make prioritisation of flavour breeding targets difficult and limit application of marker-assisted selection for taste characteristics in current breeding programs. This project will alleviate these current knowledge gaps.
The urgency of this innovation for the sector is illustrated by the involvement in this project of 6 tomato breeding companies which together cover up to 70% of the worldwide tomato seed market. This project aims to fulfill two important scientific and societal challenges: our innovations aim to provide the knowledge and tools to fulfil an essential success factor required to stimulate the consumption of fruits and vegetables. In addition, this project will also provide tools to speed up selective breeding of plants for improved taste. Last but not least, the target metabolite GABA studied in this project not only influences taste, but also has beneficial health effects of its own, promoting lower blood pressure and lower blood sugar levels, which is currently studied in human intervention studies involving tomato in a Topsector Agri&Food program (AF17048).
Last but not least, tomato is the largest vegetable crop worldwide, the largest crop for Dutch vegetable breeding companies and a scientific model for fleshy fruits, so that it is justified to invest further into a more effective taste toolbox for plant breeders.
- Insight in the effect of the above-mentioned 3 flavour enhancers on tomato taste
- Novel pre-breeding materials with high levels of the 3 flavour enhancers
- Novel QTLs and key genes involved in the production of these 3 flavour enhancers