Andrew Willoughby
Year: 2016
Faculty Advisor: Jim Giovannoni


High Pigment Mutations and Environmental Responses

Project Summary

Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) are widely grown crops, important for their nutritive properties. Both their economic and health applications, combined with the wide availability of genetic resources for tomato, makes it a powerful model for studying fruit development. Tomato plants possessing high-pigment mutations merge the study of fruit development with the promise of increasing fruit qualities such as nutrition and shelf life. Two mutations were considered, high-pigment 1 (hp1) and high-pigment 2 (hp2). These mutations, in different genes that confer an elevated light signal throughout the plant, result in increased pigment accumulation, delayed ripening, and dwarfed plants, among other phenotypes. Our work was to use different light and ethylene treatments on these mutants to elucidate the tangled network of signal interactions between light and ethylene. We also looked at how this network can impact fruit development, as well as nutritionally and economically important fruit traits like weight and firmness. Manipulation of light signal networks is a promising route to pursue in plant breeding.

My Experience

My experience as a Boyce Thompson Institute Intern has been extremely positive. The circle of interns is very friendly and inclusive, I have made many lasting friends. I had that same inclusive experience in the lab of Dr. Giovannoni. Because the lab is so diverse, I had the opportunity to learn and experiment with people from all around the world. It was great to further my molecular biology skills and design experiments alongside learning new techniques involved in economically important research like fruit quality. I also was able to start work on some CRISPR cloning. Learning one of the newest and most exciting molecular biology techniques as it develops was very rewarding. I feel more prepared for grad school and more confident in my ability to succeed ther after my time at BTI, and I would recommend it to any undergraduate considering work or a career in the biological sciences.