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J Biol Chem. 1998 Feb 20;273(8):4293-5.

Pectin methylesterase regulates methanol and ethanol accumulation in ripening tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) fruit.

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Department of Plant Science, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, USA.


We provide genetic evidence that the production of methanol in tomato fruit is regulated by pectin methylesterase (PME, EC, an enzyme that catalyzes demethoxylation of pectins. The role of PME in methanol production in tomato fruit was examined by relating the tissue methanol content to the PME enzymatic activity in wild-type Rutgers and isogenic PME antisense fruits with lowered PME activity. In the wild-type, fruit development and ripening were accompanied by an increase in the abundance of PME protein and activity and a corresponding ripening-related increase in methanol content. In the PME antisense pericarp, the level of methanol was greatly reduced in unripe fruit, and diminished methanol content persisted throughout the ripening process. The close correlation between PME activity and levels of methanol in fruit tissues from wild-type and a PME antisense mutant indicates that PME is the primary biosynthetic pathway for methanol production in tomato fruit. Interestingly, ethanol levels that were low and unchanged during ripening of wild-type tomatoes increased progressively with the ripening of PME antisense fruit. In vitro studies indicate that methanol is a competitive inhibitor of the tomato alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH, EC activity suggesting that ADH-catalyzed production of ethanol may be arrested by methanol accumulation in the wild-type but not in the PME mutant where methanol levels remain low.

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