Tomato fruit ripening is a complex metabolic process regulated by a genetical hierarchy. A subset of this process is also modulated by light signalling, as mutants encoding negative regulators of phytochrome signal transduction show higher accumulation of carotenoids. In tomato, phytochromes are encoded by a multi-gene family, namely PHYA, PHYB1, PHYB2, PHYE and PHYF; however, their contribution to fruit development and ripening has not been examined. Using single phytochrome mutants phyA, phyB1 and phyB2 and multiple mutants phyAB1, phyB1B2 and phyAB1B2, we compared the on-vine transitory phases of ripening until fruit abscission. The phyAB1B2 mutant showed accelerated transitions during ripening, with shortest time to fruit abscission. Comparison of transition intervals in mutants indicated a phase-specific influence of different phytochrome species either singly or in combination on the ripening process. Examination of off-vine ripened fruits indicated that ripening-specific carotenoid accumulation was not obligatorily dependent upon light and even dark-incubated fruits accumulated carotenoids. The accumulation of transcripts and carotenoids in off-vine and on-vine ripened mutant fruits indicated a complex and shifting phase-dependent modulation by phytochromes. Our results indicate that, in addition to regulating carotenoid levels in tomato fruits, phytochromes also regulate the time required for phase transitions during ripening.
- Fruit ripening