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The control of chlorophyll levels in maturing kiwifruit

Pilkington, Sarah M., Montefiori, Mirco, Jameson, Paula E., Allan, Andrew C.
Planta 2012 v.236 no.5 pp. 1615-1628
Actinidia deliciosa, biosynthesis, carotenoids, chlorophyll, degreening, fruits, gene overexpression, genes, kiwifruit, leaves, metabolites, plant organs, polymerase chain reaction, proteins, ripening, tobacco
Chlorophyll is present in many plant organs, including immature fruit where it is usually degraded during ripening. Mature green kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) are an exception, with high concentrations of chlorophyll remaining in the fruit flesh. In gold-fleshed kiwifruit (A. chinensis), chlorophyll is degraded to colourless catabolites upon fruit ripening, leaving yellow carotenoids visible. We have identified candidate genes for the control of chlorophyll degradation in kiwifruit and examined the transcript levels of these genes in maturing kiwifruit using quantitative real-time PCR. Results indicate that the biosynthesis and degradation, or turnover, of chlorophyll is transcriptionally regulated in green- and gold-fleshed kiwifruit. Both species of kiwifruit were found to have two homologues of the stay-green gene (SGR), a small protein that is postulated to aid in the dismantling of the light-harvesting complex, allowing free chlorophyll to enter the degradation pathway. However, with the exception of very mature green fruit, where degreening was observed, SGR2 was more highly expressed in gold fruit, indicating a potential regulatory step of chlorophyll degradation. When the SGR genes were over-expressed in tobacco leaves, degreening was observed. Our results show that chlorophyll degradation is differentially regulated in kiwifruit, and suggest that gold kiwifruit transcribe more degradation genes, leading to earlier and more sustained chlorophyll degradation in this fruit than in green kiwifruit.