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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Oct 15;99(21):13606-11. Epub 2002 Oct 7.

Natural alleles at a tomato fruit size quantitative trait locus differ by heterochronic regulatory mutations.

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Departments of Plant Breeding and Plant Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


fw2.2 is a major quantitative trait locus that accounts for as much as 30% of the difference in fruit size between wild and cultivated tomatoes. Evidence thus far indicates that fw2.2 alleles modulate fruit size through changes in gene regulation rather than in the FW2.2 protein itself. To investigate the nature of these regulatory changes and the manner in which they may affect fruit size, a pair of nearly isogenic lines has been subjected to detailed developmental, transcriptional, mitotic, and in situ hybridization studies. The results indicate that the large- and small-fruited alleles of fw2.2 differ in peak transcript levels by approximately 1 week. Moreover, this difference in timing of expression is associated with concomitant changes in mitotic activity in the early stage of fruit development. The changes in timing of gene expression (heterochronic allelic variation), combined with overall differences in total transcript levels, are sufficient to account for a large portion phenotypic differences in fruit weight associated with the two alleles.

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