Inhibiting expression of a tomato ripening-associated membrane protein increases organic acids and reduces sugar levels of fruit
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Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) ripening-associated membrane protein (TRAMP) is a channel protein of the membrane intrinsic protein (MIP) class encoded by the cDNA clone pNY507 [R.G. Fray et al. (1994) Plant Mol Biol 24: 539–543]. It has been suggested that these proteins encode water channels or aquaporins. TRAMP mRNA accumulated in all tomato tissues tested and was elevated in fruit during post-anthesis development and again during ripening. Transgenic plants that constitutively expressed a TRAMP antisense RNA sequence were generated with a 94% reduction of endogenous TRAMP mRNA in fruit. They showed no obvious phenotype that could be associated with gross perturbation of water relations, but ripening fruit of these plants showed marked alterations in the normal pattern of accumulation of both organic acids and sugars. At the onset and during ripening, levels of the organic acids l-malate and citrate were significantly elevated while levels of d[+]-glucose and d[+]-fructose were reduced. Additional transgenic lines were generated with reduced TRAMP mRNA, and the phenotype of increased acids and reduced sugars during fruit maturation and ripening was shown to be reproducible and stably inherited. Fruit of plants that over-expressed TRAMP mRNA showed no significant alteration in the sugars or acids investigated. These results suggest a role for TRAMP in the movement of solutes between cell compartments.
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