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Expression of several expansins is coordinately regulated with that of other cell wall softening enzymes and is associated with pectin-related changes in the cell wall during ripening of cherry fruit

Expression of several expansins is coordinately regulated with that of other cell wall softening enzymes and is associated with pectin-related changes in the cell wall during ripening of cherry fruit

HortScience 36(3): 602

ISSN/ISBN: 0018-5345

Expansins are plant proteins that have the capacity to mediate extension of cell walls, at least in part through weakening of interactions between hemicellulosic components and cellulose microfibrils. It has been proposed that expansins have a prominent role in tissue softening by facilitating access of hydrolytic enzymes to specific cell wall polymers. We evaluated the potential for coordinate action of expansins and several other cell wall modifying enzymes during tissue softening in the nonclimacteric fruit of P. cerasus (sour cherry). We describe the characterization of two expansin genes, designated PcEXP1 and PcEXP2, expressed in fruit mesocarpic tissue. PcEXP1 and PcEXP2 RNAs were relatively highly expressed at an advanced stage of development when fruit was undergoing simultaneous enlargement and softening, but were only very weakly expressed early in development when the fruit was growing rapidly but was not softening. From a collection of expressed sequence tags (ESTs), we identified cherry orthologs of several genes encoding proteins with known roles in cell wall modification. The onset of expansin gene expression was coordinated with the initiation of expression of genes encoding a potential xyloglucan endotransglycosylase (PcXET1), pectin methylesterase (PcPME1), pectate lyase (PcPEL1) and polygalacturonase (PcPGA1). In contrast, genes encoding proteins potentially involved in the hydrolysis of the cellulose-hemicellulose network (i.e., b-1,3-glucanase, b-1,3-1,4-glucanase) were expressed at a constant level throughout fruit development and exhibited no significant upregulation at the onset of ripening. Consistent with these molecular findings, compositional analyses revealed that softening was correlated with a striking decrease in the content of pectin, but not of cellulose or hemicellulose. Taken together, these results suggest that expansins may act in tissue softening in P. cerasus fruit through a coordinated process involving xyloglucan endotransglycosylase and pectin-degrading enzymes.

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