The expression of a single protein located in the subcellular organelles of the tomato was found to help speed up or slow down its fruit ripening, providing a novel opportunity for crop improvement.
Scientists from the University of Oxford focused on the role of plastids, or the sub-cellular organelles in fruits, in the ripening process of the tomato because the plastids are responsible for giving color to the fruit. Based on the literature, fruit ripening is linked to the biogenesis of chromoplasts but little is known about how plastids participate in this process. In their study, the scientists discovered the function of the SP1 plastids: its overexpression accelerated ripening shown by color changes, and knocking it down delayed tomato fruit ripening. They were able to demonstrate that SP1 can trigger broadening effects in fruit ripening by promoting chloroplast-to-chromoplast transition.
The results of their study revealed an important role of the plastids in the fruit ripening of the tomato and can provide a theoretical basis for the crop engineering of tomatoes.
(Source: Crop Biotech Update, International Service for Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.