Recent advances in genetics of salt tolerance in tomato

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Salinity is an important environmental constraint to crop productivity in arid and semi-arid regions of the world. Most crop plants, including tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum Mill., are sensitive to salinity throughout the ontogeny of the plant. Despite considerable research on salinity in plants, there are only a few instances where salt-tolerant cultivars have been developed. This is due in part to the complexity of the trait. A plant's response to salt stress is modulated by many physiological and agronomical characteristics, which may be controlled by the actions of several to many genes whose expressions are influenced by various environmental factors. In addition, salinity tolerance is a developmentally regulated, stage-specific phenomenon; tolerance at one stage of plant development is often not correlated with tolerance at other stages. Specific ontogenic stages should be evaluated separately for the assessment of tolerance and the identification, characterization, and utilization of useful genetic components. In tomato, genetic resources for salt tolerance have been identified largely within the related wild species, and considerable efforts have been made to characterize the genetic controls of tolerance at various developmental stages. For example, the inheritance of several tolerance-related traits has been determined and quantitative trait loci (QTLs) associated with tolerance at individual developmental stages have been identified and characterized. It has been determined that at each stage salt tolerance is largely controlled by a few QTLs with major effects and several QTLs with smaller effects. Different QTLs have been identified at different developmental stages, suggesting the absence of genetic relationships among stages in tolerance to salinity. Furthermore, it has been determined that in addition to QTLs which are population specific, several QTLs for salt tolerance are conserved across populations and species. Research is currently underway to develop tomatoes with improved salt tolerance throughout the ontogeny of the plant by pyramiding QTLs through marker-assisted selection (MAS). Transgenic approaches also have been employed to gain a better understanding of the genetics of salt tolerance and to develop tomatoes with improved tolerance. For example, transgenic tomatoes with overexpression of a single-gene-controlled vacuolar Na+TH+ antiport protein, transferred from Arabidopsis thaliana, have exhibited a high level of salt tolerance under greenhouse conditions. Although transgenic plants are yet to be examined for field salt tolerance and salt-tolerant tomatoes are yet to be developed by MAS, the recent genetic advances suggest a good prospect for developing commercial cultivars of tomato with enhanced salt tolerance in near future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-119
Number of pages19
JournalPlant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Horticulture


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