Genes Could Be Clue to Bigger Apples

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., June 30 (UPI) — Clues to how to grow bigger apples may be found in one variety that grows larger because its cells aren’t splitting, a U.S. researcher says.

An anomaly in some Gala apple trees is producing apples about 38 percent heavier and 15 percent larger than normal Galas, Peter Hirst, a Purdue University associate professor of horticulture, says.

While the larger so-called Grand Galas have the same number of cells as normal size apples, the cells are larger, a university release said Wednesday.

Normally, cells make a copy of their DNA, grow and then split. In Grand Galas, by a phenomenon called endoreduplication, the cells make copies of their DNA but don’t divide. Instead, the cells grow, add more copies of the DNA and continue to grow.

“It’s never been found in apples before,” Hirst said. “This is an oddball phenomenon in the apple world.”

One or more of a handful of genes probably cause the endoreduplication, Hirst said. And while it may be possible to isolate those genes and find ways to increase the size of other apples, Hirst said it’s unlikely.

“You won’t see Grand Galas in the grocery store,” Hirst said. “Consumers like shiny, perfect-looking apples. Grand Galas are slightly lopsided. They’re good eating apples, but the end product isn’t something that consumers are used to seeing at the store.”

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