Major Impacts of Widespread Structural Variation on Gene Expression and Crop Improvement in Tomato

Cell. 2020 Jul 9;182(1):145-161.e23. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.05.021. Epub 2020 Jun 17.


Structural variants (SVs) underlie important crop improvement and domestication traits. However, resolving the extent, diversity, and quantitative impact of SVs has been challenging. We used long-read nanopore sequencing to capture 238,490 SVs in 100 diverse tomato lines. This panSV genome, along with 14 new reference assemblies, revealed large-scale intermixing of diverse genotypes, as well as thousands of SVs intersecting genes and cis-regulatory regions. Hundreds of SV-gene pairs exhibit subtle and significant expression changes, which could broadly influence quantitative trait variation. By combining quantitative genetics with genome editing, we show how multiple SVs that changed gene dosage and expression levels modified fruit flavor, size, and production. In the last example, higher order epistasis among four SVs affecting three related transcription factors allowed introduction of an important harvesting trait in modern tomato. Our findings highlight the underexplored role of SVs in genotype-to-phenotype relationships and their widespread importance and utility in crop improvement.

Keywords: breeding; cis-regulatory; copy number variation; cryptic variation; domestication; dosage; epistasis; long-read sequencing; structural variation; tomato.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Crops, Agricultural / genetics*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • Ecotype
  • Epistasis, Genetic
  • Fruit / genetics
  • Gene Duplication
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Genome, Plant
  • Genomic Structural Variation*
  • Genotype
  • Inbreeding
  • Molecular Sequence Annotation
  • Phenotype
  • Plant Breeding
  • Quantitative Trait Loci / genetics
  • Solanum lycopersicum / genetics*


  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System