The focus of research in the Giovannoni laboratory is molecular and genetic analysis of fruit ripening and related signal transduction systems with emphasis on the relationship of fruit ripening to nutritional quality. We are also involved in development of tools for genomics of the Solanaceae including participation in the International Tomato Sequencing Project. We employ several experimental systems but the majority of our work involves the use of tomato. The broad objectives of the lab include deciphering the underlying molecular basis of components of ripening regulation conserved through evolution and how these regulatory networks coordinate ripening events including those related to quality and nutritional content.
Experimental approaches include: 1) positional cloning of loci known via mutation to harbor genes necessary for normal fruit development and ripening, and 2) isolation of candidate ripening regulatory genes based on expression pattern or relationship to ripening-related signal transduction systems (e.g. ethylene, light), and functional analysis in transgenic plants.
Ripening is a process by which the texture, color, flavor, and nutritional content of fruit is enhanced. These traits contribute to the healthfulness and desirability of the fruit as a food source. Clearly, understanding the processes behind fruit ripening are important in terms of nutrition, but also for commercial applications such as transportation and shelf-life. Thus, the focus of research in the Giovannoni lab is molecular and genetic analysis of fruit ripening and related signal transduction systems, using tomato as the model system. Recently, researchers in the lab isolated two genes, RIN and NOR, that are part of the master switch to induce ripening in tomatoes. In addition to identifying important regulatory components of ripening, the lab also investigates lycopene production. Lycopene is the pigment that gives tomatoes their red coloring and which is also suggested to inhibit degenerative diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Using a genomics approach, the lab is investigating the regulatory mechanisms behind accumulation of this important compound in different tomato varieties.
For more information about the Giovannoni lab, please visit the Plant Biology website. Additionally, the Giovannoni lab, in conjunction with other labs on campus has developed a resource for tomato genomics, the Tomato EST Database. Additional resources and information resulting from tomato genomics activities on the Cornell campus can be found at the Solanaceae Genomics Network site.