Ethylene promotes fruit ripening initiation by downregulating photosynthesis, enhancing abscisic acid and suppressing jasmonic acid in blueberry (Vaccinium ashei)


BMC Plant Biol. 2024 May 18;24(1):418. doi: 10.1186/s12870-024-05106-4.


BACKGROUND: Blueberry fruit exhibit atypical climacteric ripening with a non-auto-catalytic increase in ethylene coincident with initiation of ripening. Further, application of ethephon, an ethylene-releasing plant growth regulator, accelerates ripening by increasing the proportion of ripe (blue) fruit as compared to the control treatment. To investigate the mechanistic role of ethylene in regulating blueberry ripening, we performed transcriptome analysis on fruit treated with ethephon, an ethylene-releasing plant growth regulator.

RESULTS: RNA-Sequencing was performed on two sets of rabbiteye blueberry (‘Powderblue’) fruit: (1) fruit from divergent developmental stages; and (2) fruit treated with ethephon, an ethylene-releasing compound. Differentially expressed genes (DEGs) from divergent developmental stages clustered into nine groups, among which cluster 1 displayed reduction in expression during ripening initiation and was enriched with photosynthesis related genes, while cluster 7 displayed increased expression during ripening and was enriched with aromatic-amino acid family catabolism genes, suggesting stimulation of anthocyanin biosynthesis. More DEGs were apparent at 1 day after ethephon treatment suggesting its early influence during ripening initiation. Overall, a higher number of genes were downregulated in response to ethylene. Many of these overlapped with cluster 1 genes, indicating that ethylene-mediated downregulation of photosynthesis is an important developmental event during the ripening transition. Analyses of DEGs in response to ethylene also indicated interplay among phytohormones. Ethylene positively regulated abscisic acid (ABA), negatively regulated jasmonates (JAs), and influenced auxin (IAA) metabolism and signaling genes. Phytohormone quantification supported these effects of ethylene, indicating coordination of blueberry fruit ripening by ethylene.

CONCLUSION: This study provides insights into the role of ethylene in blueberry fruit ripening. Ethylene initiates blueberry ripening by downregulating photosynthesis-related genes. Also, ethylene regulates phytohormone-metabolism and signaling related genes, increases ABA, and decreases JA concentrations. Together, these results indicate that interplay among multiple phytohormones regulates the progression of ripening, and that ethylene is an important coordinator of such interactions during blueberry fruit ripening.

PMID:38760720 | DOI:10.1186/s12870-024-05106-4