Understanding the rules of life

Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

Category: Standard Studentships

Manipulating plant and fruit quality across Solanaceous crops

Project No. 2104

Primary Supervisor

Dr Mark Chapman – University of Southampton


Dr Andrew Simkin – NIAB EMR


The aim of this studentship is to investigate parallel domestication of Solanaceae crops and to use a cross-crop approach to identify and manipulate genes involved in plant and fruit quality.

Instances of the parallel evolution of orthologous traits allow researchers to use data from one species to investigate the genetic basis of this trait in another. This provides a rapid mechanism to identify causative genes and to infer the degree to which
orthologous traits have the same genetic basis. The Solanaceae, the focus of this project, contains dozens of domesticated species, with many similar traits being selected on, for example fruit size, shape and colour in tomato, pepper and eggplant.

This project will explore new avenues of research and a combination of approaches to investigate the genetic basis of a range of important traits in these species, combining previous data on eggplant domestication, with existing and novel QTL maps to
tie recently identified candidate genes to traits. The project is broken down into the following objectives:

Objective 1: Use QTL mapping and genome sequencing to formulate links between previously identified candidate domestication genes in eggplant and potential phenotypes.

Objective 2: Compare wild and domesticated eggplant genomes to determine whether genes involved in domestication traits in tomato, pepper and potato are likely involved in eggplant domestication.

Objective 3: Using a transgenic approach to determine the role and function of a subset of candidate genes from objectives 1 and 2.

The outputs from this project will this range from a more detailed understanding of basic evolutionary principles, to generating enhanced crops for greater consumer choice and/or health.