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Imagine That! - Tomato Bacterium

Imagine That!
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Imagine That! - Tomato Bacterium

Credit: NSF/Finger Lakes Productions International

Audio Transcript:

Tomatoes aren't just for spaghetti they're giving researchers clues on how to fight deadly bacterial diseases!


Have you ever seen those unappetizing black specks on the skins of your grocery store tomatoes? They're the kind of thing that makes you put the veggie back on the shelf, and scientists wanted to figure out how the bacteria that cause those specks...infects.

Collmer: "If we understood how plants were susceptible, we would have a better idea of how to develop plants that are more resistant to pathogens."

That's Alan Collmer, a plant pathologist at Cornell. He worked with colleagues at the Institute for Genomic Research in Maryland to analyze the gene sequence for this bacterium, and figure out how it worked. What the team found is that this strain of bacteria, pseudomonas syringae, is no special sauce. It uses the same virulence systems as many other bacteria that infect crops, animals, and even humans, like E.coli, salmonella, and the bacterium that caused the plague.

So understanding p. syringae gives scientists clues on how similar bacteria operate. Which makes it easier to learn what their weaknesses are, and how to combat them. Another way scientists are keeping fruit and veggie costs down, while closing in on cures for some of the world's deadliest diseases. I'm Eric Phillips.

"Imagine That!" covers projects funded by the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you by you! Learn more at

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