Phytochrome Regulation of Carotenoid Biosynthesis during Ripening of Tomato Fruit

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  • 1 Univ. of Guelph, Dept. of Food Science, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada
  • | 2 Univ. of Guelph, Dept.s of Food Science and Plant Agriculture, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada

The accumulation of carotenoids such as lycopene and beta-carotene greatly influences the quality of ripe tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) fruit because cellular levels of these compounds determine the intensity of red color. As well, lycopene has anti-cancer properties and beta-carotene is a Vitamin A precursor. Recent work has demonstrated phytochrome regulation of the carotenoid pathway but the mechanism is not completely understood. This work investigates phytochrome regulation of 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase (DXS) and phytoene synthase (PSY), two key enzymes of carotenogenesis. A simple procedure for the assay of PSY from crude pericarp extracts was developed and mRNA levels of DXS and PSY1 genes were measured by relative RT-PCR. Discs from mature green tomatoes were ripened in total darkness, or in darkness interrupted by brief daily treatments of red light, or red light followed by far red light. After ten days of incubation, lycopene levels of red light-treated discs had reached ≈12 mg/100 g fresh weight; nearly a 50% increase over discs ripened in total darkness. This increase was not observed in discs treated with red light followed by far red light, demonstrating the red/far red reversibility (and thus phytochrome control) of carotenoid accumulation. Similar patterns of phytochrome control are observed for PSY activity but not for DXS and PSY1 transcript levels, suggesting the mechanism of control may be at the level of post-translational modification of PSY. Potential applications of this regulation of carotenoid accumulation will be discussed.

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