James (Jim) Giovannoni is a plant biologist known for his work on fruit physiology and ripening. He is acknowledged in particular for his discoveries related to the transcriptional control of ripening initiation, identification of genes underlying important fruit development and quality traits, the role of epigenome dynamics in fruit development, and contributions to the development of molecular resources for the plant and fruit model system, tomato. Jim was born and raised in San Francisco, and received a degree in biochemsitry with a minor in philosophy from the University of California, Davis in 1985. He received his Ph.D. in Molecular and Physiological Plant Biology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1990 followed by a postdoc at Cornell University. In 1992 he joined the faculty of Horticulture at Texas A&M University and in 2000 joined the US Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service, Robert W. Holley Center located on the Cornell University campus. He is an American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

The Giovannoni lab uses molecular, physiological and genetic approaches to investigate the molecular cascade underlying the coordinated biochemical and physiological changes that render fleshy fruit ripe. Fruit are significant components of human and animal diets contributing fiber, carbohydrates and essential nutrients. Using the tomato system they have uncovered key transcription factors initiating early ripening events upstream and controlling the ripening hormone ethylene. These include transcription factors underlying natural mutations or revealed through gene expression profiling. Some are widely conserved through the evolution of fleshy fruit bearing species with relevance to shelf-life, nutritional quality and food security. The lab has demonstrated that some of these transcription factors operate in the fruit in conjunction with developmental DNA methylation changes to facilitate the ripening transition only after the enclosed seed reach maturity. This tight regulation is essential to fitness. These analyses were facilitated in part by the laboratory's central role in the development and unrestricted release of tomato genomics resources including genome sequences that have facilitated plant biology investigations well beyond the fruit.

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Primary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences