Mark Twain called it “the most delicious fruit known to men.” He was talking about the cherimoya. If you never heard of it, there’s good reason. It has a feature that has prevented it from becoming widely popular—numerous big seeds fill its sweet white flesh.
But now scientists in Spain and at the University of California, Davis, have found the key to making the cherimoya and related fruits seedless. They published their research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Jorge Lora et al., "Seedless fruits and the disruption of a conserved genetic pathway in angiosperm ovule development"]
It’s generally tough to develop a seedless fruit—bananas and oranges are rare successes. Breeding for seedlessness usually fails to produce the fully developed fruit consumers demand. But the scientists found a spontaneous mutation that causes seedlessness in a cherimoya relative, the sugar apple. They compared its genome to that of a seedless mutant of a plant called Arabidopsis that’s used in a lot of research.
In both cases, they found a deletion of one particular gene. The researchers say this is the first time a gene for seedlessness has been determined. If they can find a way to knock out that gene in the cherimoya, it could bring Mark Twain’s favorite fruit, and many others, to a grocery store near you.
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]