Eddie Almanza
Eddie Almanza
Year: 2021
Faculty Advisor: Margaret Frank

“Uncovering Genetic Loci Underlying Fruit Development in Global Eggplant Varieties”

Project Summary:

Eggplant (Solanaceae melongena) is an economically and culturally important food crop grown worldwide. The domestication of crops involves the reduction of genetic diversity, known as the bottleneck effect, which is the case with eggplant. The reduction of genetic diversity in domesticated eggplants has left many accessions susceptible to various diseases and pests. Wild eggplant species show resistance to most diseases and pests that commonly reduce yield in domesticated eggplant. Therefore, wild eggplant relatives are highly valuable for discovering genes of significance for future yield improvements in cultivated eggplants. Candidate genes for fruit traits such as weight, length, width, and shape, were found using genome-wide association studies (GWAS). To conduct GWAS, short-read sequencing was performed on 100 different eggplant accessions, including wild, semi-domesticated, and domesticated accessions. The resulting reads were mapped to the eggplant genome recently assembled by Hamid Razifard, which resulted in a database of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that captured the genetic variation between accessions. The GWAS results revealed several candidate genomic loci correlated with fruit shape. The results also provided insight into how domestication led to changes in fruit phenotype and suggest that two separate domestication events may have occurred in India and Southeast Asia.

My Experience:

My time spent in the Frank lab this summer was a wonderful experience that provided me with valuable research skills and knowledge. My experience helped me realize how interdisciplinary research could be and left me confident in my ability to conduct research. Through BTI, I had the opportunity to attend weekly seminars and listen to different speakers present a variety of topics ranging from graduate school to new and exciting research within the plant science community. I am especially grateful to my mentor, Hamid Razifard, for being very patient and helping me become familiar with the world of research without overwhelming me. Overall, my time spent as a BTI intern in the Frank lab was a transformative experience that has left me much more familiar with research and has opened my eyes to the opportunities presented by a career in research.