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Study: Watermelon genome could lead to disease-resistant fruit

Researchers at UC Davis say that the watermelon genome could lead to more appetizing and disease-resistant fruit. According to a UC Davis report, a team of international researchers has published the genome sequence of watermelon. Researchers believe that the watermelon genome could help scientists understand more about the plant vascular system.

Researchers say that the watermelon genome holds 23,440 genes, approximately the same number of genes as in humans. The team looked at the genomes of 20 different watermelons and created a first-generation genetic variation map for the fruit. The map helped researchers determine the genomic regions associated with fruit, color, taste and size.

Researchers are examining the cucumber and watermelon genomes to expand their understanding of the plant vascular system. They think that these genomes will help them learn more about the role of proteins and RNA species that move through the vascular system.

“Watermelons are a model system for studying the evolution of long-distance signaling processes that occur through the plant vascular system. Knowledge relating to these regulatory mechanisms can be harnessed by breeders to develop watermelons having enhanced properties, including increased water use efficiency, enhanced nutritional value and engineered resistance to pathogens,” said Professor William Lucas, chair of the Department of Plant Biology, in a statement.

Researchers found that a lot of disease resistance genes were lost in the domestication of watermelon. The watermelon genome could help breeders recover some of these disease resistance genes.

Watermelons are believed to have originated in Africa. For Egyptians, watermelons were the source of water in dry conditions. Currently, more than 200 varieties are commercially produced around the globe. The U.S. ranks fourth in global production of watermelons.

Scientists say that watermelons hold nutrients like vitamins A and C and lycopene, which gives the fruit its red color. According to, lycopene is an antioxidant compound that may lower a person’s risk of cancer.

The finding was detailed online on November 25 in the journal Nature Genetics.