In a collaborative effort involving 74 researchers from 38 research institutes, scientists from Israel’s Weizmann Institute have produced the full genome of a wild strawberry plant.
Drs. Asaph Aharoni and Avital Adato of the Weizmann Institute’s Plant Sciences Department were the sole Israeli scientists participating in the project, but they made a major contribution in mapping the genes and gene families responsible for the strawberry’s flavor and aroma.The research appears in the journal Nature Genetics.
The woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca) is closely related to the garden-variety cultivated strawberry. The fruit of this berry contains large amounts of anti-oxidants, as well as vitamins A, C and B12 and the minerals potassium, calcium and magnesium. In addition, the strawberry fruit is uniquely rich in substances for flavor and aroma.
For a number of years Aharoni has been investigating how the substances that give the fruit its flavor and aroma are produced. He was one of the first to use biological chips to analyze the genetic networks involved in creating these substances.
Aharoni hopes that, among other things, the newly sequenced genome will help scientists understand how to return the flavors and aromas that have been lost over years of breeding in the cultivated cousin of the wild strawberry. The intense, concentrated aroma and flavor of the woodland strawberry are, he says, something to aspire to.