91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

MSU researchers map entire tart cherry genome

Michigan State University
Tart cherries

Michigan State University researchers have sequenced the Montmorency tart cherry genome.

They say it will have a major impact on all future tart cherry research and breeding efforts worldwide.

The Montmorency tart cherry is a widely grown variety, including in Michigan, which is the nation's largest producer of the fruit.

Researchers at MSU initially hoped to identify genes associated with cherry trees that bloomed later in the season, by comparing them to the corresponding genes in the peach, which already had its entire genome mapped.

“I naively thought that this would be an easy endeavor; we would simply sequence a few early and late-blooming cherry trees and align the sequences to the peach genome and get an answer in just a few weeks,” said Courtney Hollender, an assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at MSU. “I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

Instead, there were so many differences between the two that esearchers moved on to complete a full mapping of the entire cherry genome. Its genome is complex, to say the least.

"The complexities come from the tart cherry’s parental plant chromosomes. Tart cherries are allotetraploids, meaning instead of having two sets of chromosomes like humans, they have four sets from at least two different species," the researchers explained in a press release.

“Not only does tart cherry have four copies of every chromosome, but it also is the product of a natural cross between two different species, the ground cherry, Prunus fruticosa, and the sweet cherry, Prunus avium, that may have happened almost two million years ago," said MSU doctoral candidate Charity Goeckeritz.

The researchers say uncovering the Montmorency tart cherry genome sequence "opens the possibilities for a tremendous amount of future research that will ultimately benefit the industry and the consumer by growing more trees that can withstand varying spring weather and produce more cherries."

The research was published in the journal Horticulture Research.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.