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Somatic instability of carotenoid biosynthesis in the tomato ghost mutant and its effect on plastid development

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The tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum (L.) Mill.) ghost plant is a mutant of the San Marzano cultivar affected in carotenoid biosynthesis. ghost plants exhibit a variable pattern of pigment biosynthesis during development. Cotyledons are green but true leaves are white. Green sectors, which appear to be clonal in origin, are frequently observed in the white tissue. Because of the lack of photosynthesis ghost plants have a very low viability in soil. We have developed a strategy for propagating ghost plants that employs organ culture to generate variegated green-white plants which, supported by the photosynthetic green areas, develop in soil to almost wild-type size. These plants were used to analyze the pigment content of the different tissues observed during development and plastid ultrastructure. Cotyledons and green leaves contain both colored carotenoids and chlorophyll but only the colorless carotenoid phytoene accumulates in white leaves. the plastids in the white tissue of ghost leaves lack internal membrane structures but normal chloroplasts can be observed in the green areas. The chromoplasts of white fruits are also impaired in their ability to form thylakoid membranes.

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Scolnik, P.A., Hinton, P., Greenblatt, I.M. et al. Somatic instability of carotenoid biosynthesis in the tomato ghost mutant and its effect on plastid development. Planta 171, 11–18 (1987).

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