Researchers from the James Hutton Institute were able to identify a specific protein in the potato genome that is responsible for initiating the growth of tubers. This discovery can potentially provide a new strategy to increase the productivity of potatoes, a crop considered to be pivotal for global food security.
Crop maturity is crucial in potato agronomy and is dictated by the earliness of tuberization. To explore this further, the researchers investigated the role of the TERMINAL FLOWER-1/CENTRORADIALIS gene family, termed as StCEN, in potato tuberization. They found that its reduction accelerated tuber formation, while its over-expression caused delayed tuberization and reduced tuber yield. Furthermore, a specific tuberization signal, StSP6A, was found to be the activation target of the tuberigen activation complex. StCEN suppresses tuberization by directly antagonizing StSP6A in the stolons.
The researchers concluded that StCEN can serve as a breeding marker to improve tuber initiation and yield. This can help potato breeders develop fast-maturing, more resilient potato varieties that can withstand the challenges of Climate change.