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J Exp Bot. 2006;57(4):961-70. Epub 2006 Feb 17.

The expression of cell proliferation-related genes in early developing flowers is affected by a fruit load reduction in tomato plants.

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UMR 619 Physiologie et Biotechnologie Végétales, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Universités Bordeaux 1 et 2, Centre de Recherche de Bordeaux, BP 81, F-33883 Villenave d'Ornon Cedex, France.


Changes in photoassimilate partitioning between source and sink organs significantly affect fruit development and size. In this study, a comparison was made of tomato plants (Solanum lycopersicum L.) grown under a low fruit load (one fruit per truss, L1 plants) and under a standard fruit load (five fruits per truss, L5 plants), at morphological, biochemical, and molecular levels. Fruit load reduction resulted in increased photoassimilate availability in the plant and in increased growth rates in all plant organs analysed (root, stem, leaf, flower, and fruit). Larger flower and fruit size in L1 plants were correlated with higher cell number in the pre-anthesis ovary. This was probably due to the acceleration of the flower growth rate since other flower developmental parameters (schedule and time-course) remained otherwise unaffected. Using RT-PCR, it was shown that the transcript levels of CYCB2;1 (cyclin) and CDKB2;1 (cyclin-dependent kinase), two mitosis-specific genes, strongly increased early in developing flower buds. Remarkably, the transcript abundance of CYCD3;1, a D-type cyclin potentially involved in cell cycle regulation in response to mitogenic signals, also increased by more than 5-fold at very early stages of L1 flower development. By contrast, transcripts from fw2.2, a putative negative regulator of cell division in tomato fruit, strongly decreased in developing flower bud, as confirmed by in situ hybridization studies. Taken together, these results suggest that changes in carbohydrate partitioning could control fruit size through the regulation of cell proliferation-related genes at very early stages of flower development.

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