Plant Cell Reports

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 103–116 | Cite as

Activating glutamate decarboxylase activity by removing the autoinhibitory domain leads to hyper γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) accumulation in tomato fruit

  • Mariko Takayama
  • Chiaki Matsukura
  • Tohru Ariizumi
  • Hiroshi EzuraEmail author
Original Article


Key message

The C-terminal extension region of SlGAD3 is likely involved in autoinhibition, and removing this domain increases GABA levels in tomato fruits.


γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a ubiquitous non-protein amino acid with several health-promoting benefits. In many plants including tomato, GABA is synthesized via decarboxylation of glutamate in a reaction catalyzed by glutamate decarboxylase (GAD), which generally contains a C-terminal autoinhibitory domain. We previously generated transgenic tomato plants in which tomato GAD3 (SlGAD3) was expressed using the 35S promoter/NOS terminator expression cassette (35S-SlGAD3-NOS), yielding a four- to fivefold increase in GABA levels in red-ripe fruits compared to the control. In this study, to further increase GABA accumulation in tomato fruits, we expressed SlGAD3 with (SlGAD3 OX ) or without (SlGAD3ΔC OX ) a putative autoinhibitory domain in tomato using the fruit ripening-specific E8 promoter and the Arabidopsis heat shock protein 18.2 (HSP) terminator. Although the GABA levels in SlGAD3 OX fruits were equivalent to those in 35S-SlGAD3-NOS fruits, GABA levels in SlGAD3ΔC OX fruits increased by 11- to 18-fold compared to control plants, indicating that removing the autoinhibitory domain increases GABA biosynthesis activity. Furthermore, the increased GABA levels were accompanied by a drastic reduction in glutamate and aspartate levels, indicating that enhanced GABA biosynthesis affects amino acid metabolism in ripe-fruits. Moreover, SlGAD3ΔC OX fruits exhibited an orange-ripe phenotype, which was associated with reduced levels of both carotenoid and mRNA transcripts of ethylene-responsive carotenogenic genes, suggesting that over activation of GAD influences ethylene sensitivity. Our strategy utilizing the E8 promoter and HSP terminator expression cassette, together with SlGAD3 C-terminal deletion, would facilitate the production of tomato fruits with increased GABA levels.


E8 promoter Fruit ripening GABA HSP terminator Tomato 



We thank all of our laboratory members for their helpful discussions. This study was supported by the “Japan-France Joint Laboratory Project”, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan, and the “Research and Development Program for New Bio-industry Initiative”, Bio-oriented Technology Research Advancement Institution (BRAIN). ‘Micro-Tom’ tomato seeds (Accession No. TOMJPF00001) were obtained from the Gene Research Center, University of Tsukuba, through the National Bioresource Project (NBRP) of MEXT, Japan.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

299_2016_2061_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (2.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 2233 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of TsukubaTsukubaJapan

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