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Crit Rev Biotechnol. 2008;28(1):13-55. doi: 10.1080/07388550801891111 .

Melon fruits: genetic diversity, physiology, and biotechnology features.

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  • 1Plant Genetic Engineering Department, Guanajuato Campus. Center of Research and Advanced Studies (Cinvestav-IPN), National Polytechnic Institute, Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico. hnunez@ira.cinvestav.mx

Abstract

Among Cucurbitaceae, Cucumis melo is one of the most important cultivated cucurbits. They are grown primarily for their fruit, which generally have a sweet aromatic flavor, with great diversity and size (50 g to 15 kg), flesh color (orange, green, white, and pink), rind color (green, yellow, white, orange, red, and gray), form (round, flat, and elongated), and dimension (4 to 200 cm). C. melo can be broken down into seven distinct types based on the previously discussed variations in the species. The melon fruits can be either climacteric or nonclimacteric, and as such, fruit can adhere to the stem or have an abscission layer where they will fall from the plant naturally at maturity. Traditional plant breeding of melons has been done for 100 years wherein plants were primarily developed as open-pollinated cultivars. More recently, in the past 30 years, melon improvement has been done by more traditional hybridization techniques. An improvement in germplasm is relatively slow and is limited by a restricted gene pool. Strong sexual incompatibility at the interspecific and intergeneric levels has restricted rapid development of new cultivars with high levels of disease resistance, insect resistance, flavor, and sweetness. In order to increase the rate and diversity of new traits in melon it would be advantageous to introduce new genes needed to enhance both melon productivity and melon fruit quality. This requires plant tissue and plant transformation techniques to introduce new or foreign genes into C. melo germplasm. In order to achieve a successful commercial application from biotechnology, a competent plant regeneration system of in vitro cultures for melon is required. More than 40 in vitro melon regeneration programs have been reported; however, regeneration of the various melon types has been highly variable and in some cases impossible. The reasons for this are still unknown, but this plays a heavy negative role on trying to use plant transformation technology to improve melon germplasm. In vitro manipulation of melon is difficult; genotypic responses to the culture method (i.e., organogenesis, somatic embryogenesis, etc.) as well as conditions for environmental and hormonal requirements for plant growth and regeneration continue to be poorly understood for developing simple in vitro procedures to culture and transform all C. melo genotypes. In many cases, this has to be done on an individual line basis. The present paper describes the various research findings related to successful approaches to plant regeneration and transgenic transformation of C. melo. It also describes potential improvement of melon to improve fruit quality characteristics and postharvest handling. Despite more than 140 transgenic melon field trials in the United States in 1996, there are still no commercial transgenic melon cultivars on the market. This may be a combination of technical or performance factors, intellectual property rights concerns, and, most likely, a lack of public acceptance. Regardless, the future for improvement of melon germplasm is bright when considering the knowledge base for both techniques and gene pools potentially useable for melon improvement.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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