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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Nov 13;109(46):19009-14. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1216515109. Epub 2012 Oct 29.

Role of an esterase in flavor volatile variation within the tomato clade.

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Horticultural Sciences Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.


Tomato flavor is dependent upon a complex mixture of volatiles including multiple acetate esters. Red-fruited species of the tomato clade accumulate a relatively low content of acetate esters in comparison with the green-fruited species. We show that the difference in volatile ester content between the red- and green-fruited species is associated with insertion of a retrotransposon adjacent to the most enzymatically active member of a family of esterases. This insertion causes higher expression of the esterase, resulting in the reduced levels of multiple esters that are negatively correlated with human preferences for tomato. The insertion was evolutionarily fixed in the red-fruited species, suggesting that high expression of the esterase and consequent low ester content may provide an adaptive advantage in the ancestor of the red-fruited species. These results illustrate at a molecular level how closely related species exhibit major differences in volatile production by altering a volatile-associated catabolic activity.

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