New regulator improves both texture and nutritional quality

The softening of fruits is a key component of ripening and causes damage and loss in the fruit food supply chain. It has thus developed into a scientific and industrial hotspot in the field of post-harvest biology, storage and logistics.

Modern breeding often sacrifices fruit quality such as taste, aroma and nutritional value. Biotechnology has become an important way of improving the agronomic properties of fruits. One of the most common strategies is to modify the ethylene emission, such as antisense from ACS / ACO. RIN (ripening inhibitor) hybrid fruit (RIN / rin) can delay the ripening process and extend shelf life by reducing ethylene synthesis, but it leads to a loss of favor, aroma and nutrients. Therefore, it is important to regain the traditional taste and improve the quality of the fruit.

This work was led by Prof. CHEN Kunsong from the Laboratory of Fruit Quality Biology at Zhejiang University and Prof. James J. Giovannoni from the Boyce Thompson Institute. A new maturation-specific transcription factor of the LATERAL ORGAN BOUNDRIES (LOB) domain was functionally characterized and published in PNAS.

Gene expression and phenotypes after SlLOB1 repression

Their research showed that SlLOB1 can upregulate a number of cell wall-associated genes during the late maturation and maturation of loculus and pericarp tissue. Silencing SlLOB1 can prevent softening without having side effects on the natural ripening and softening process. SlLOB1 overexpression can activate downstream cell wall genes and thereby induce premature softening.

In contrast to other softening regulators, SlLOB1 takes part in a regulatory sub-cycle that predominates for cell wall dynamics and softening independently of ethylene. In addition, it can promote the build-up of lycopene.

“Our study offers an important goal to delay fruit softening, extend shelf life, and ensure nutrition while growing,” said Chen. “It also opens up a new way to find a balance between improving fruit firmness in storage and logistics and improving fruit nutritional quality.”

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