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Effect of CRC::etr1-1 transgene expression on ethylene production, sex expression, fruit set and fruit ripening in transgenic melon (Cucumis melo L.)

Switzenberg, Jessica A., Beaudry, Randy M., Grumet, Rebecca
Transgenic research 2015 v.24 no.3 pp. 497-507
Cucumis melo, abscission, buds, color, ethylene, ethylene production, exocarp, females, flowering, flowers, fruit growing, fruit set, gene expression, genes, males, melons, mutants, phenotype, plant ovary, ripening, transgenic plants
Ethylene is a key factor regulating sex expression in cucurbits. Commercial melons (Cucumis melo L.) are typically andromonoecious, producing male and bisexual flowers. Our prior greenhouse studies of transgenic melon plants expressing the dominant negative ethylene perception mutant gene, etr1-1, under control of the carpel- and nectary-primordia targeted CRAB’S CLAW (CRC) promoter showed increased number and earlier appearance of carpel-bearing flowers. To further investigate this phenomenon which could be potentially useful for earlier fruit production, we observed CRC::etr1-1 plants in the field for sex expression, fruit set, fruit development, and ripening. CRC::etr1-1 melon plants showed increased number of carpel-bearing open flowers on the main stem and earlier onset by 7–10 nodes. Additional phenotypes observed in the greenhouse and field were conversion of approximately 50 % of bisexual buds to female, and elongated ovaries and fruits. Earlier and greater fruit set occurred on the transgenic plants. However, CRC::etr1-1 plants had greater abscission of young fruit, and smaller fruit, so that final yield (kg/plot) was equivalent to wild type. Earlier fruit set in line M5 was accompanied by earlier appearance of ripe fruit. Fruit from line M15 frequently did not exhibit external ripening processes of rind color change and abscission, but when cut open, the majority showed a ripe or overripe interior accompanied by elevated internal ethylene. The non-ripening external phenotype in M15 fruit corresponded with elevated etr1-1 transgene expression in the exocarp. These results provide insight into the role of ethylene perception in carpel-bearing flower production, fruit set, and ripening.