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Systems biology and the growth of tomatoes

Gepubliceerd op
14 april 2014

Systems biology is a rapidly evolving science, worldwide as well in Wageningen. This science uses the knowledge from genomics, metabolomics and proteomics to explain growth, development, stress and diseases in plants, animals and humans, with the aid of mathematical tools.

For tomato currently the DNA sequence has been determined for a number of genotypes. Moreover, knowledge on effect of genes (expression and transcription) on energy and protein household in the cell is vastly increasing.

At Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture, PhD students recently conducted a series of experiments on cell division and cell growth as to explain tomato fruit growth.

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The gathered knowledge is used to develop a fruit growth model. This systems biology model starts with genetic regulation of cell division, modified by sugars and hormones. Up-scaling of the cellular processes is needed to explain processes at higher scales, that again feedback on cellular processes (see figure).

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Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture wants to explain what growth and fruit composition new genotypes will achieve in specific growth conditions. This knowledge can speed up breeding of genotypes for specific purposes or growth environments. This research is also part of the Wageningen Centre for Systems Biology, that houses ca. 15 PhDs and postdocs.