Ethephon [2-(chloroethyl) phoshonic acid] is used widely to maximize the yield of ripe tomato fruits. However, ethephon causes rapid and extensive defoliation, overripening, and promotes sunscald damage to the fruit. Recent studies from our laboratory have provided evidence that lysophosphatidylethanolamine (LPE) can reduce leaf senescence. We investigated the potential use of LPE to reduce damaging effect of ethephon on tomato foliage and influence on the activity of phospholipase D (PLD). Disruption of membrane integrity has been suggested as a primary cause of senescence in plants. PLD is known to be a key enzyme, which initiates the selective degradation of membrane phospholipids in senescing tissues. Two-month-old tomato plants (`Mountain Spring') grown in greenhouse condition were sprayed with water, 200 ppm LPE, and 1000 ppm ethephon. In addition, LPE spray prior to ethephon or mixture with ethephon were also tested. Leaves were sampled after 0, 2, 5, 24, 72, and 168 h of spray application, for PLD activity measurements. Spray of LPE prior to ethephon spray or inclusion of LPE in the ethephon spray reduced foliar injury by ethephon. Activity of soluble PLD was increased dramatically in leaves sprayed with ethephon initially and than dropped by 7 days. We also found that LPE-treated leaves had lower PLD activity than the ethephon-treated leaves. Plants treated with LPE-ethephon mixture also showed significantly lower PLD activity. These results suggest that LPE treatments mitigate ethephon injury to tomato plants. Furthermore, it appears that this mitigation involves modulation of the activity of PLD.
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