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Recently there's been some unexpected interactions between mutations when breeding GMO crops, and sientists have unveiled what drove one infamous 'cryptic' mutation.
Other tomato varieties would break away at a joint-like nub in their fruit stems, leaving the pointed green caps on the fruits. With stems still present, these capped tomatoes would get easily bruised in the machine-picking process or end up puncturing one another in transit. However, the lucky Campbell Soup mutant didn't have these problems. It was jointless, and perfect for a growing, automated industry.
During the 1960s, tomato breeders worked furiously to introduce j2 into many varieties. However, it quickly became apparent that j2's benefit of safe and easy harvesting came at a big price. In nearly all occurrences, jointless tomato plants would branch and flower in an out-of-control manner, causing an imbalance in growth that led to reduced fruit production and yield.
Without the nubby joints that are normally present on the stems of tomato plants, the fruit is much easier to harvest. However, researchers have discovered how a cryptic mutation can get in the way of this otherwise desirable trait.
Credit: Lippman lab/CSHL[
"On its own, the single mutation has no obvious effect on the health or the fitness or the vigor of the plant," says Lippman. "But when another mutation happens along with it and there is a negative interaction, that's the cryptic mutation revealing itself."
Today, sequencing technologies allow us to see these mutations. Moreover, with the aid of gene editing tools like CRISPR, we can fine-tune the mutations underlying the negative interactions so that they no longer hinder agricultural production.