The expression of a gene encoding the cell wall-degrading enzyme polygalacturonase [poly(1,4-alpha-D-galacturonide) glucanohydrolase, EC 184.108.40.206] was characterized during tomato fruit ripening. Polygalacturonase was purified from ripe tomato fruit and used to produce highly specific antiserum. Immunoblot analyses detected a 45- and a 46-kDa protein in ripe fruit but immunoprecipitation of in vitro translation products of mRNA from ripe tomato fruit yielded a single 54-kDa polypeptide, suggesting post-translational processing. A plasmid cDNA library was prepared from poly(A)(+) RNA isolated from ripe tomato fruit. The cDNA library was inserted into a lambda-based expression vector, and polygalacturonase cDNA clones were identified by immunological screening. Hybrid-select translation experiments indicated that the cDNAs encode a 54-kDa in vitro translation product that is specifically immunoprecipitated with polygalacturonase antiserum. RNA-blot analysis indicated that the 1.9-kilobase polygalacturonase mRNA was virtually absent from immature-green fruit, accumulated steadily during the ripening process, and was at its highest level in red-ripe fruit. There was at least a 2000-fold increase in the level of polygalacturonase mRNA between immature-green and red-ripe tomato fruit. These studies show that the levels of polygalacturonase mRNA are developmentally regulated during tomato fruit ripening.
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