Genomic Approach to the Improvement of Fruit Quality
in Melon (Cucumis melo) and related Cucurbit Crops

Award #: BARD IS-3333-02
Investigators: Dr. Nurit Katzir
Dr. Jim Giovannoni
Dr. Marla Binzel
Abstract: Improvement of melon (Cucumis melo) fruit quality is the primary goal of this proposed research. Fruit quality is determined by numerous traits that affect taste and aroma, texture, pigmentation, nutritional value and duration of shelf life. A genomic approach using microarray technology will be applied to identify candidate genes for fruit quality improvement via marker-assisted selection or transgenic techniques. A comparative approach is suggested here to make use, and extend, the knowledge and tools from well-characterized crops such as tomato, to melon and other less studied members of the Cucurbitaceae family.

The objectives of this project include (1) The isolation of a minimum of 1000 fruit specific ESTs, (2) The development of a microarray for melon fruit ESTs, (3) The analysis of gene expression in melon using melon and tomato fruit gene enriched microarrays, (4) A comparative study of fruit gene expression of the major cucurbit crops.

The molecular and genetic analysis of fruit ripening, especially that of tomato, is the major research topic of the US Principal Investigator. Genome-wide expression profiling during ripening, related to fruit quality and nutritional composition is being applied successfully in his laboratory. The research of the Israeli team focuses on melon genetics and breeding, with germplasm collections, characterized genetic material and molecular tools developed in their laboratories. The synergism of the research areas and capacities of the two groups is vital to the project, as its objectives and their implementations are not likely to be achieved by either group on its own. The project will enhance efforts for breeding for improved fruit quality and nutritional value of melon and related cucurbits.