Yellow shoulder disorder (YSD) is characterized by sectors of yellow or green tissue under the peel of uniform ripening tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) fruit. Tissues excised from sectors of fruit expressing YSD, from adjacent red sectors, and from mature green fruit were used to compare the ultrastructural alterations in cells and tissue affected by YSD and to determine whether the disorder is caused by delayed fruit maturation or by aberrant development. Cells from YSD sectors were smaller than those from both adjacent red-ripe tissue and mature green fruit. The smaller cells from the YSD sectors were at a different developmental stage than cells of the adjacent red-ripe tissue. Chromoplasts in red-ripe tissue were more advanced in development than those in YSD sectors or mature green fruit. Using the transition from chloroplast to chromoplast and the degradation of the middle lamella between adjacent cells as developmental markers, the maturity of tissue from YSD sectors appeared to be equal or greater than that of tissue from mature green fruit. However, cell enlargement, which takes place early in fruit development, was retarded in YSD sectors. Therefore, the ultrastructural features of YSD are not compatible with a delayed ripening model for this blotchy ripening disorder. These observations provide a basis for comparing YSD in uniformly ripening tomatoes with other blotchy ripening disorders.
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