paper natureIn 26/06/2014, the journal Nature Communications published a research developed in the Plant Molecular Genetics Laboratory of the Botany Department (IB/USP), headed by Profa Dra Magdalena Rossi, with collaboration of Prof. Fernando Carrari’s group of the Biotecnology Institute (Argentina National Agropecuary Technology Institute).

Tomatoes have high nutritional value and are consumed worldwide, making them important components of human diet. Among its nutraceutical compounds, vitamins and antioxidants molecules are of utmost importance. In this context, the group identifies the importance of the VTE3 gene, which encodes for a vitamin E biosynthetic pathway enzyme, for the vitamin E content in tomato fruits.

In the gene promoter region (the part that promotes its transcription) there is a SINE type retrotransposon (a mobile genetic element) that can be methylated, i.e. it can be epigenetically modified (a change in the DNA that does not change the base sequence). When this occurs, the gene transcription is reduced, therefore, less enzyme is translated and, consequently, the vitamin E content in the fruit is lowered. On the other hand, when the SINE is demethylated, the gene expression is raised and higher vitamin E levels are found. The two gene versions, or epialleles, are found naturally in tomato and the conversion of one to another depends on the environment conditions.

For the first time, epigenetic regulation of an agronomical trait was demonstrated, moreover, these results exemplifies how the regulation of gene expression can affect the plant phenotypic plasticity allowing its adaptation to the environment.

The paper can be accessed in this link.