Are juicier, sweeter, more disease-resistant watermelons on the way? An international consortium of more than 60 scientists from the United States, China, and Europe has just published the genome sequence of watermelon (Citrullus lanatus), information that could dramatically acceleratewatermelon breeding towards production of a more nutritious, tastier, and more resistant fruit. The watermelon genome sequence was published on November 25 in the online version of the journal Nature Genetics.
The researchers discovered that a large portion of disease resistance genes were lost in the domestication of watermelon. With the high-quality watermelon sequence now complete, it is hoped that breeders can now use the information to recover some of these natural disease defenses.
The authors reported that the genome of the domesticated watermelon contained 23,440 genes, roughly the same number of genes as in humans. The group compared the genomes of 20 different watermelons and developed a first-generation genetic variation map (HapMap) for watermelon. This information allowed them to identify genomic regions that have been under human selection including those associated with fruit color, taste, and size.