Induction of AGAMOUS gene expression plays a key role in ripening of tomato sepals in vitro

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In vitro culture of VFNT Cherry tomato sepals (calyx) at 16–21 °C results in developmental changes that are similar to those that occur in fruit tissue [10]. Sepals become swollen, red, and succulent, produce ethylene, and have increased levels of polygalacturonase RNA. They also produce many flavor volatiles characteristic of ripe tomato fruit and undergo similar changes in sugar content [11]. We examined the expression of the tomato AGAMOUS gene, TAG1, in ripening, in vitro sepal cultures and other tissues from the plant and found that TAG1 RNA accumulates to higher levels than expected from data from other plants. Contrary to reports on the absence of AGAMOUS in sepals, TAG1 RNA levels in green sepals from greenhouse-grown plants is detectable, its concentration increasing with in vitro ripening to levels that were even higher than in red, ripe fruit. Sepals of fruit on transgenic tomato plants that expressed TAG1 ectopically were induced by low temperature to ripen in vivo, producing lycopene and undergoing cell wall softening as is characteristic of pericarpic tissue. We therefore propose that the induction of elevated TAG1 gene expression plays a key role in developmental changes that result in sepal ripening.

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