By Mike Pomranz
Updated May 28, 2015
Credit: © John Kernick

Domesticated tomatoes are much larger than wild tomatoes, but it wasn’t until recently that scientists understood just how that genetic mechanism works. Now that they’ve uncovered the mystery, they believe this knowledge could be used to make other fruits larger as well.

The key is in the meristem, a growing tip at the uppermost part of the stem. According to Science, in these plant parts, “scientists discovered a feedback loop involving two genes, one to stimulate stem cell production and the other to hold production in check. A shortage of the latter, a gene called CLAVATA3, leads to plumped-up beefsteaks.” To work properly, this gene needs a specific chain of molecules; if the gene instead gets a shorter molecule chain, a shortage of that gene can occur and, therefore, the plant yields larger fruit.

It’s a lot of science talk, but here’s the moral: Most plants use the same process as the one seen in tomato plants, so researchers believe that manipulating these chains in similar ways on other plants could yield similar results—more specifically, larger fruit.

Exactly how large fruits can get with these genetic modifications wasn’t directly mentioned, but the thought of a giant apple to serve six is a little scary.