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Research adds health benefit to tomatoes

CORVALLIS Researchers at Oregon State University have created purple-fruited tomatoes that include anthocyanins the same class of health-promoting pigments in red wine that function as antioxidants and are believed to prevent heart disease.

Their research is featured as the cover story in the latest issue of the Journal of Heredity.

Domestic tomato varieties grown and consumed in the United States do not normally produce fruit containing any anthocyanin, explained Jim Myers, OSU's Baggett Frazier professor of vegetable breeding. The success in producing anthocyanin-containing tomatoes through traditional breeding techniques could help researchers develop even more new varieties of tomatoes with other nutrients, both for home gardeners and for the food industry, he added.

"Tomatoes are second only to the potato in terms of the top vegetable consumed in the world," Myers said. "Per capita use in the U.S. in 2003 was 89 pounds of tomatoes per person. If we could boost the nutritional value of tomatoes, a large part of the population would benefit from that."

The OSU researchers accomplished the feat through the characterization of the inheritance pattern of a little studied gene in tomatoes called "anthocyanin fruit," or Aft. Myers and his OSU graduate students crossed a domestic tomato plant with a genetic stock of tomato that included a gene incorporated from a wild relative with anthocyanin-containing fruit and the Aft gene. The result: a domestic-type tomato fruit containing the purple pigment and the Aft gene, thereby opening the door towards developing anthocyanin-rich tomatoes.

Assisting Myers were graduate students Carl M. Jones, now at the University of California-Davis, and Peter Mes. The OSU researchers grew the seeds of their new cross of anthocyanin tomato fruit in the OSU research greenhouse for two generations, backcrossing them with the original parent types. This work led them to confirm that anthocyani
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Contact: Jim Myers
myersja@science.oregonstate.edu
541-737-3083
Oregon State University
19-Feb-2004


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