Unraveling a genetic roadmap for improved taste in the domesticated apple

Liao Liao, Weihan Zhang, Bo Zhang, Ting Fang, Xiao Fei Wang, Yaming Cai, Collins Ogutu, Lei Gao, Gang Chen, Xiaoqing Nie, Jinsheng Xu, Quanyan Zhang, Yiran Ren, Jianqiang Yu, Chukun Wang, Cecilia H. Deng, Baiquan Ma, Beibei Zheng, Chun Xiang You, Da Gang HuRichard Espley, Kui Lin-Wang, Jia Long Yao, Andrew C. Allan, Awais Khan, Schuyler S. Korban, Zhangjun Fei, Ray Ming, Yu Jin Hao, Li Li, Yuepeng Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although taste is an important aspect of fruit quality, an understanding of its genetic control remains elusive in apple and other fruit crops. In this study, we conducted genomic sequence analysis of 497 Malus accessions and revealed erosion of genetic diversity caused by apple breeding and possible independent domestication events of dessert and cider apples. Signatures of selection for fruit acidity and size, but not for fruit sugar content, were detected during the processes of both domestication and improvement. Furthermore, we found that single mutations in major genes affecting fruit taste, including Ma1, MdTDT, and MdSOT2, dramatically decrease malate, citrate, and sorbitol accumulation, respectively, and correspond to important domestication events. Interestingly, Ma1 was identified to have pleiotropic effects on both organic acid content and sugar:acid ratio, suggesting that it plays a vital role in determining fruit taste. Fruit taste is unlikely to have been negatively affected by linkage drag associated with selection for larger fruit that resulted from the pyramiding of multiple genes with minor effects on fruit size. Collectively, our study provides new insights into the genetic basis of fruit quality and its evolutionary roadmap during apple domestication, pinpointing several candidate genes for genetic manipulation of fruit taste in apple.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1454-1471
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular Plant
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 6 2021


  • apple
  • domestication
  • fruit size
  • fruit taste
  • organic acids
  • soluble sugars

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Unraveling a genetic roadmap for improved taste in the domesticated apple'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this