Daniel Rodríguez-Leal, a 2016 Pew Latin American fellow, and Zachary Lippman
of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory used CRISPR genome-editing technology to
modify the sequences within the promoter of genes that are important to
tomato yield. The study could provide a catalog of beneficial plant variants
that growers could use to easily choose the best growth traits and adjust
them during future growing seasons.
Through minimal modifications in the promoters, the researchers rapidly
generated several versions that are vital in the overall production of
tomatoes, including plant architecture and shape as well as fruit size.
Through the use of CRISPR to modify the promoters instead of the genes, they
were able to fine-tune the output of yield genes. For instance, the
researchers observed how overall yield changed as a result of changing the
number of floral organs and locules (the gelatinous seed cavities within the
tomato), which can determine just how big the fruit will grow.