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Genetic and biochemical analysis reveals linked QTLs determining natural variation for fruit post-harvest water loss in pepper (Capsicum)

Popovsky-Sarid, Sigal, Borovsky, Yelena, Faigenboim, Adi, Parsons, Eugene P., Lohrey, Gregory T., Alkalai-Tuvia, Sharon, Fallik, Elazar, Jenks, Matthew A., Paran, Ilan
Theoretical and applied genetics 2017 v.130 no.2 pp. 445-459
Capsicum annuum, biosynthesis, breeding, cell walls, fruit quality, gene expression regulation, genes, genetic markers, quantitative trait loci, ripening, shelf life, storage time, sweet peppers, total soluble solids, transcriptomics, vegetable crops
KEY MESSAGE: Molecular markers linked to QTLs controlling post-harvest fruit water loss in pepper may be utilized to accelerate breeding for improved shelf life and inhibit over-ripening before harvest. Bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) is an important vegetable crop world-wide. However, marketing is limited by the relatively short shelf life of the fruit due to water loss and decay that occur during prolonged storage. Towards breeding pepper with reduced fruit post-harvest water loss (PWL), we studied the genetic, physiological and biochemical basis for natural variation of PWL. We performed quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping of fruit PWL in multiple generations of an interspecific cross of pepper, which resulted in the identification of two linked QTLs on chromosome 10 that control the trait. We further developed near-isogenic lines (NILs) for characterization of the QTL effects. Transcriptome analysis of the NILs allowed the identification of candidate genes associated with fruit PWL-associated traits such as cuticle biosynthesis, cell wall metabolism and fruit ripening. Significant differences in PWL between the NILs in the immature fruit stage, differentially expressed cuticle-associated genes and differences in the content of specific chemical constituents of the fruit cuticle, indicated a likely influence of cuticle composition on the trait. Reduced PWL in the NILs was associated with delayed over-ripening before harvest, low total soluble solids before storage, and reduced fruit softening after storage. Our study enabled a better understanding of the genetic and biological processes controlling natural variation in fruit PWL in pepper. Furthermore, the genetic materials and molecular markers developed in this study may be utilized to breed peppers with improved shelf life and inhibited over-ripening before harvest.