Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is an established model to study fleshy fruit development and ripening. Tomato ripening is regulated independently and cooperatively by ethylene and transcription factors, including nonripening (NOR) and ripening-inhibitor (RIN). Mutations of NOR, RIN, and the ethylene receptor Never-ripe (Nr), which block ethylene perception and inhibit ripening, have proven to be great tools for advancing our understanding of the developmental programs regulating ripening. In this study, we present systems analysis of nor, rin, and Nr at the transcriptomic, proteomic, and metabolomic levels during development and ripening. Metabolic profiling marked shifts in the abundance of metabolites of primary metabolism, which lead to decreases in metabolic activity during ripening. When combined with transcriptomic and proteomic data, several aspects of the regulation of metabolism during ripening were revealed. First, correlations between the expression levels of a transcript and the abundance of its corresponding protein were infrequently observed during early ripening, suggesting that posttranscriptional regulatory mechanisms play an important role in these stages; however, this correlation was much greater in later stages. Second, we observed very strong correlation between ripening-associated transcripts and specific metabolite groups, such as organic acids, sugars, and cell wall-related metabolites, underlining the importance of these metabolic pathways during fruit ripening. These results further revealed multiple ethylene-associated events during tomato ripening, providing new insights into the molecular biology of ethylene-mediated ripening regulatory networks.
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