Interactive Sessions - Kids' Tech University (KTU) at BGSU    
Dr. David FrancisMarch 31, 2012
“Why are tomatoes red?  What the tomato genome sequence tells us about the color of tomato fruit.”

An interactive session led by Dr. David Francis



David Francis, Associate Professor, Horticulture and Crop Sciences, The Ohio State University, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Wooster, OH

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the building block of life. The DNA alphabet has only four letters A, T, C and G, which are arranged in 12 strings known as chromosomes; the complete DNA sequence of tomato stretches over 950 million letters! Scientists use the DNA sequence of plants to develop new types of plants that are more productive, resistant to disease, and can provide nutrition for us. What we can learn from the DNA sequence of tomato? Does the DNA sequence tell us about the color? What about the nutritional value of a tomato?

Tomato color is caused by a group of chemicals called "carotenoids", an important class of pigments that include vitamin A. Several proteins are needed to make a specific carotenoid. The information to make the proteins comes from the DNA sequence of tomato. By comparing the DNA sequence from different tomatoes, using mathematical tools, we can learn which part of the sequence is responsible for making the proteins that assemble and modify carotenoid pigments. Other parts of the sequence determine when, and in which part of the plant those proteins are made. We will also talk about how we use the information in the DNA sequence to make new varieties of tomatoes.

Dr. David Francis is an Associate Professor in Horticulture and Crop Science at Ohio State University in Wooster Ohio. David grew up in Southern California and did his doctoral studies at the University of California, Davis in the heart of the Central Valley of California, the largest tomato-producing region in the world. The Central Valley of California is a very hot, dry environment in the summer. By comparison, the Midwest is cooler and more humid, conditions that are much more favorable, for plant pathogens. The primary goal of his research group is to use the genetic information of wild type and domesticated tomato varieties to develop new cultivars with improved fruit quality and disease resistance for the Mid west environment. Ultimately though, the product of his research has to be a tasty tomato, so yes David eats his work.

March 2012 - Hands-On Exhibits
After the interactive session the students will be escorted by their parents to have lunch and then to the hands-on portion of the event. There the students will enjoy the experience of interacting with various exhibits from the Bowling Green State University community.