In vivo and in vitro swelling of cell walls during fruit ripening
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Swelling properties of the cell walls of nine temperate fruit species, selected for their different ripening and textural characteristics, were studied during ripening. Cell wall swelling was examined in intact fruit using microscopy techniques and in vitro, using cell wall material isolated from fruit tissue. In fruit which ripened to a soft melting texture (persimmon, avocado, blackberry, strawberry, plum), wall swelling was pronounced, particularly in vitro. In-vivo swelling was marked only in avocado and blackberry. Fruit which ripened to a crisp, fracturable texture [apple (two cultivars), nashi pear, watermelon] did not show either in-vivo or in-vitro swelling of the cell wall. There was a correlation between swelling and the degree of pectin solubilisation, suggesting that wall swelling occurred as a result of changes to the viscoelastic properties of the cell wall during pectin solubilisation. Chemical and enzymatic removal of pectin from kiwifruit cell wall material supported the idea that swelling is associated with movement of water into voids left in the cellulose-hemicellulose network by the solubilised pectin. However, the results also suggested that swelling in vivo was more complex than this, and that the physicochemical changes which led to swelling included other elements of cell wall modification involving the site and mechanism of pectin solubilisation and-or the cellulose-xyloglucan complex.
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