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Scented Tomatoes Developed at BGU

Scented Tomatoes Developed at BGU

July 30, 2008

Press Releases

BEER-SHEVA, ISRAEL  – August 2, 2007 – A new type of genetically modified tomato with aromas of lemon and roses was developed in part by researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), which could affect the aroma of many fruits and other crops.

As reported in the July issue of Nature Biotechnology, for the first time using genetic engineering, the aroma of tomatoes was efficiently modified, affecting the perception of tomato flavor by humans.  Researchers extracted a gene from lemon basil that produces an aroma-making enzyme called “geraniol synthase” in order to produce the effect. 

“This work is a milestone that opens the road for restoring the full flavor of tomatoes and to a plethora of vegetables and fruits with tailor made aromas,” said Yaron Sitrit, lead researcher at BGU.

Nearly all of the 82 volunteers that tasted the modified tomatoes were able to detect novel aromas, described as “perfume,” “rose,” “geranium” and “lemongrass.” About 60 percent of the people preferred the transgenic fruits over the original tomatoes.

The finding could result in developing new tomato flavors and it is conceivable that other cartenoid containing fruits and vegetables will display a similar effect. 

The tomatoes have a slightly less intense red color than regular tomatoes and contain less lycopene, the red pigment and antioxidant carotenoid that are found naturally in the fruit.

The new tomato strain was developed by the research groups of Yaron Sitrit of BGU, Efraim Lewinsohn of the Newe Ya’ar Research Centre in Ramat Yishay, Israel, and Eran Pichersky of the University of Michigan. The work is also part of the Ph.D. Thesis of BGU student Rachel Davidovich-Rikanati.

About American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion’s vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University’s expertise locally and around the globe. Activities include showcasing BGU’s academic excellence and cutting-edge research through educational programs, events and informative communications. AABGU’s main purpose is to support Ben-Gurion’s vision and the university that bears his name by creating a community of Americans committed to improving the world tomorrow from the heart of the Israeli desert today.

Media Contact:
Andrew Lavin
A. Lavin Communications