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J Exp Bot. 2011 Jul;62(11):3821-35. doi: 10.1093/jxb/err063. Epub 2011 Apr 21.

Dissecting the role of climacteric ethylene in kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis) ripening using a 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid oxidase knockdown line.

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New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Ltd , Auckland, New Zealand.


During climacteric fruit ripening, autocatalytic (Type II) ethylene production initiates a transcriptional cascade that controls the production of many important fruit quality traits including flavour production and softening. The last step in ethylene biosynthesis is the conversion of 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) to ethylene by the enzyme ACC oxidase (ACO). Ten independent kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis) lines were generated targeting suppression of fruit ripening-related ACO genes and the fruit from one of these lines (TK2) did not produce detectable levels of climacteric ethylene. Ripening behaviour in a population of kiwifruit at harvest is asynchronous, so a short burst of exogenous ethylene was used to synchronize ripening in TK2 and control fruit. Following such a treatment, TK2 and control fruit softened to an 'eating-ripe' firmness. Control fruit produced climacteric ethylene and softened beyond eating-ripe by 5 d. In contrast, TK2 fruit maintained an eating-ripe firmness for >25 d and total volatile production was dramatically reduced. Application of continuous exogenous ethylene to the ripening-arrested TK2 fruit re-initiated fruit softening and typical ripe fruit volatiles were detected. A 17 500 gene microarray identified 401 genes that changed after ethylene treatment, including a polygalacturonase and a pectate lyase involved in cell wall breakdown, and a quinone oxidoreductase potentially involved in volatile production. Many of the gene changes were consistent with the softening and flavour changes observed after ethylene treatment. However, a surprisingly large number of genes of unknown function were also observed, which could account for the unique flavour and textural properties of ripe kiwifruit.

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