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Engineered polyamine accumulation in tomato enhances phytonutrient content, juice quality, and vine life

Nature Biotechnology volume 20, pages 613618 (2002) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Polyamines, ubiquitous organic aliphatic cations, have been implicated in a myriad of physiological and developmental processes in many organisms, but their in vivo functions remain to be determined. We expressed a yeast S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase gene (ySAMdc; Spe2) fused with a ripening-inducible E8 promoter to specifically increase levels of the polyamines spermidine and spermine in tomato fruit during ripening. Independent transgenic plants and their segregating lines were evaluated after cultivation in the greenhouse and in the field for five successive generations. The enhanced expression of the ySAMdc gene resulted in increased conversion of putrescine into higher polyamines and thus to ripening-specific accumulation of spermidine and spermine. This led to an increase in lycopene, prolonged vine life, and enhanced fruit juice quality. Lycopene levels in cultivated tomatoes are generally low, and increasing them in the fruit enhances its nutrient value. Furthermore, the rates of ethylene production in the transgenic tomato fruit were consistently higher than those in the nontransgenic control fruit. These data show that polyamine and ethylene biosynthesis pathways can act simultaneously in ripening tomato fruit. Taken together, these results provide the first direct evidence for a physiological role of polyamines and demonstrate an approach to improving nutritional quality, juice quality, and vine life of tomato fruit.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Herbert Tabor, Bob Fischer, and Gad Galili for gifts of yeast SAM decarboxylase gene, E8 promoter, and pCD vector, respectively; Aref Abdul-Baki for help with field tests; Zhiping Deng and Tatsiana Datesenka for help in processing data; and James Anderson, Marvin Edelman, Santosh Misra, and Mark Tucker for a careful reading of the manuscript.

Author information

Author notes

    • Roshni A. Mehta
    •  & Tatiana Cassol

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. USDA-ARS Vegetable Laboratory, Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Building 010A, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350.

    • Roshni A. Mehta
    • , Tatiana Cassol
    • , Nasreen Ali
    •  & Autar K. Mattoo
  2. Department of Biology, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong SAR, China.

    • Ning Li
  3. Department of Horticulture, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907.

    • Avtar K. Handa

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Autar K. Mattoo.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt0602-613

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