Scientists from the University of Cambridge's Sainsbury Laboratory (SLCU) have found out new techniques to breed drought and disease resistant tomato crops. The researchers have discovered that the drought triggers the activity of jumping genes or the rider transposons, which results in the death of the plant.
Transposons are mobile snippets of DNA code, they have the capability to change, disrupt, or amplify genes in different positions. Transposons which were earlier considered as Junk as they had no specific functions to perform are not junk anymore as they play a pivotal role in the evolutionary process, physical characteristics of plants, and also in gene expression.
Now scientists are targeting these rider transposons which are responsible for the growth of the plant. The researchers are trying to bring about a ‘random mutation’ in large populations of crops, such as a tomato field, where the transposons are activated in each and every individual.This would give rise to new traits and diversity by controlling the random mutation. Harnessing the rider gene and splicing them into these crops will help the plant to develop resistance against stress, drought, and disease.
This discovery by the researchers from SLCU is being supported by the European Research Council and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and by other countries as well. This invention will pave new insights in the field of food technology to develop drought and disease resistant crops through genetic modifications.