The Tomato Metabolite Database, which is being implemented by Zhangjun Fei, a senior bioinformatics scientist in VBI's Cyberinfrastructure Group, will be used to store a wide range of information and data about tomato, including microarray and metabolite profiling data as well as information on metabolic pathways. This resource will be used to identify key genes involved in the synthesis of essential metabolites that impact tomato flavor and the quality of its nutrients.
Fei's work is part of a collaboration with Harry Klee, professor of horticultural science at the University of Florida and principal investigator for the project, and Jim Giovannoni, adjunct professor of plant biology at the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University and research molecular biologist at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service's Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory. The work is funded by a $2-million grant from the National Science Foundation.
Research groups led by Klee and Giovannoni will use the information provided by the Tomato Metabolite Database to characterize the functions of those genes identified as being responsible for genetic variation in tomato using state-of-the-art RNA interference (RNAi) technology. RNAi technology allows scientists to silence or turn down the specific function of a gene within a cell and represents a powerful approach to accurately establish gene function on a large scale.
"The development of this database will allow researchers the world over to develop and test hypotheses regarding the regulation of flavor, nutrition and quality metabolites in edible crop tissues," said Klee.