Network Inference Analysis Identifies an APRR2-Like Gene Linked to Pigment Accumulation in Tomato and Pepper Fruits

Yu Pan, Glyn Bradley, Kevin Pyke, Graham Ball, Chungui Lu, Rupert Fray, Alexandra Marshall, Subhalai Jayasuta, Charles Baxter, Rik van Wijk, Laurie Boyden, Rebecca Cade, Natalie H. Chapman, Paul D. Fraser, Charlie Hodgman & Graham B. Seymour

Carotenoids represent some of the most important secondary metabolites in the human diet, and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is a rich source of these health-promoting compounds. In this work, a novel and fruit-related regulator of pigment accumulation in tomato has been identified by artificial neural network inference analysis and its function validated in transgenic plants. A tomato fruit gene regulatory network was generated using artificial neural network inference analysis and transcription factor gene expression profiles derived from fruits sampled at various points during development and ripening. One of the transcription factor gene expression profiles with a sequence related to an Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) ARABIDOPSIS PSEUDO RESPONSE REGULATOR2-LIKE gene (APRR2-Like) was up-regulated at the breaker stage in wild-type tomato fruits and, when overexpressed in transgenic lines, increased plastid number, area, and pigment content, enhancing the levels of chlorophyll in immature unripe fruits and carotenoids in red ripe fruits. Analysis of the transcriptome of transgenic lines overexpressing the tomato APPR2-Like gene revealed up-regulation of several ripening-related genes in the overexpression lines, providing a link between the expression of this tomato gene and the ripening process. A putative ortholog of the tomato APPR2-Like gene in sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum) was associated with pigment accumulation in fruit tissues. We conclude that the function of this gene is conserved across taxa and that it encodes a protein that has an important role in ripening.

Plant Physiology 161 (3), 1476-1485

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