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Plant J. 2007 Dec;52(5):865-76. Epub 2007 Sep 19.

Silencing of DELLA induces facultative parthenocarpy in tomato fruits.

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Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Plantas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Ingeniero Fausto Elio s/n, 46022 Valencia, Spain.


DELLA proteins are plant nuclear factors that restrain growth and proliferation in response to hormonal signals. The effects of the manipulation of the DELLA pathway in the making of a berry-like fruit were investigated. The expression of the Arabidopsis thaliana gain-of-function DELLA allele Atgai (del) in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) produced partially sterile dwarf plants and compacted influorescences, as expected for a constitutively activated growth repressor. In contrast, antisense silencing of the single endogenous tomato DELLA gene homologue (SlDELLA) produced slender-like plants with elongated flower trusses. Interestingly, the depletion of SlDELLA in tomato was sufficient to overcome the growth arrest normally imposed on the ovary at anthesis, resulting in parthenocarpic fruits in the absence of pollination. Antisense SlDELLA-engineered fruits were smaller in size and elongated in shape compared with wild type. Cell number estimations showed that fruit set, resulting from reduced SlDELLA expression, arose from activated cell elongation at the longitudinal and lateral axes of the fruit pericarp, bypassing phase-II (post-pollination) cell divisions. Parthenocarpy caused by SlDELLA depletion is facultative, as hand pollination restored wild-type fruit phenotype. This indicates that fertilization-associated SlDELLA-independent signals are operational in ovary-fruit transitions. SlDELLA was also found to restrain growth in other reproductive structures, affecting style elongation, stylar hair primordial growth and stigma development.

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