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J Exp Bot. 2015 Feb;66(3):657-68. doi: 10.1093/jxb/eru332. Epub 2014 Aug 21.

Melatonin promotes ripening and improves quality of tomato fruit during postharvest life.

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College of Agriculture and Biotechnology, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China.
School of Agriculture, Virginia State University, Petersburg, USA.
College of Agriculture and Biotechnology, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China


In this study, the effect of melatonin on the postharvest ripening and quality improvement of tomato fruit was carried out. The tomatoes were immersed in exogenous melatonin for 2h, and then the related physiological indicators and the expression of genes during post-harvest life were evaluated. Compared with control check (CK), the 50 µM melatonin treatment significantly increased lycopene levels by 5.8-fold. Meanwhile, the key genes involved in fruit colour development, including phytoene synthase1 (PSY1) and carotenoid isomerase (CRTISO), showed a 2-fold increase in expression levels. The rate of water loss from tomato fruit also increased 8.3%, and the expression of aquaporin genes, such as SlPIP12Q, SlPIPQ, SlPIP21Q, and SlPIP22, was up-regulated 2- to 3-fold under 50 µM melatonin treatment. In addition, 50 µM melatonin treatment enhanced fruit softening, increased water-soluble pectin by 22.5%, and decreased protopectin by 19.5%. The expression of the cell wall modifying proteins polygalacturonase (PG), pectin esterase1 (PE1), β-galactosidase (TBG4), and expansin1 (Exp1) was up-regulated under 50 µM melatonin treatment. Melatonin increased ethylene production by 27.1%, accelerated the climacteric phase, and influenced the ethylene signalling pathway. Alteration of ethylene production correlated with altered 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) synthase (ACS4) expression. The expression of ethylene signal transduction-related genes such as NR, SlETR4, SlEIL1, SlEIL3, and SlERF2, was enhanced by 50 µM melatonin. The effect of melatonin on ethylene biosynthesis, ethylene perception, and ethylene signalling may contribute to fruit ripening and quality improvement in tomato. This research may promote the application of melatonin on postharvest ripening and quality improvement of tomato fruit as well as other horticultural productions in the future.


Ethylene; gene expression; melatonin; postharvest; ripening; tomato.

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