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Tomato fruit set driven by pollination or by the parthenocarpic fruit allele are mediated by transcriptionally regulated gibberellin biosynthesis

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We investigated the role of gibberellins (GAs) in the phenotype of parthenocarpic fruit (pat), a recessive mutation conferring parthenocarpy in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.). Novel phenotypes that parallel those reported in plants repeatedly treated with gibberellic acid or having a GA-constitutive response indicate that the pat mutant probably expresses high levels of GA. The retained sensitivity to the GA-biosynthesis inhibitor paclobutrazol reveals that this condition is dependent on GA biosynthesis. Expression analysis of genes encoding key enzymes involved in GA biosynthesis shows that in normal tomato ovaries, the GA20ox1 transcript is in low copy number before anthesis and only pollination and fertilization increase its transcription levels and, thus, GA biosynthesis. In the unpollinated ovaries of the pat mutant, this mechanism is de-regulated and GA20ox1 is constitutively expressed, indicating that a high GA concentration could play a part in the parthenocarpic phenotype. The levels of endogenous GAs measured in the floral organs of the pat mutant support such a hypothesis. Collectively, the data indicate that transcriptional regulation of GA20ox1 mediates pollination-induced fruit set in tomato and that parthenocarpy in pat results from the mis-regulation of this mechanism. As genes involved in the control of GA synthesis (LeT6, LeT12 and LeCUC2) and response (SPY) are also altered in the pat ovary, it is suggested that the pat mutation affects a regulatory gene located upstream of the control of fruit set exerted by GAs.

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Cup-shaped cotyledon2


Days after pollination



GA3 :

Gibberellic acid


GA 20-oxidase


GA 3-oxidase


Chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry


Hours after emasculation


Hours after pollination


Hours before pollination




Indole-3-acetic acid


Knotted-like homeobox genes






Parthenocarpic fruit


Reverse transcription




Wild type


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We thank Dr. Francesca Tilesi (Dipartimento di Biologia Cellulare e dello Sviluppo, Università La Sapienza, Roma, Italy) and Dr. Dario Beraldi (Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK) for their contribution to the early stages in this work; Pietro Mosconi (Dipartimento di Agrobiologia e Agrochimica, Università della Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy) for expert technical assistance and Dr. Giovanna Frugis (Istituto di Biologia e Biotecnologia Agraria, Roma, Italy), Dr. Theo Lange (Institut für Pflanzenbiologie, Technischen Universität Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany) and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on the manuscript and Jacqueline Scarpa for help with the English form of the manuscript. This work was supported by the funds from the University of Tuscia for Scientific Research, project “Ruolo delle gibberelline nell’allegagione e nello sviluppo del frutto in pomodoro”.

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Correspondence to Andrea Mazzucato.

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Fig. S1 The principal pathways of gibberellin (GA) metabolism in higher plants, including the non-early-13-hydroxylated pathway (left branch) and the early-13-hydroxylated pathway (right branch). Arrows connect the precursor with the product of each step and circled numbers refers to the enzymes catalysing the reactions as follows: (1) ent-copalyl diphosphate synthase; (2) ent-kaurene synthase; (3) ent-kaurene 19-oxidase; (4) kaurenoic acid oxidase; (5) GA 13-hydroxylase; (6) GA 20-oxidase (GA20ox); (7) GA 3β-hydroxylase (GA3ox); (8) GA 2-oxidase (GA2ox). Those components of the early-13-hydroxylated pathway that have been monitored in this study are highlighted. (Modified from Hedden and Phillips, 2000). GGPP, geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate (DOC 39 kb)


Fig. S2 Expression analysis of genes involved in GA synthesis and response in WT (white bars) and pat mutant (black bars) tomato ovaries at the time of flower opening (stage 3). RNA was isolated and reverse transcribed using oligo(dT) and Moloney murine leukemia virus-reverse transcriptase. The cDNAs generated were subsequently used in a 25 ml PCR reaction in the presence of primers specific for the studied genes or the ACTIN control. The RT-PCR products were separated on 1.5% (w/v) agarose gels stained with ethidium bromide. Expression data are reported as estimates of relative mRNA amount derived from the ratio between the quantitative values of PCR band intensity for the target gene and the actin control measured by the Gel Analyzer procedure of the ImageJ software ( Data points are means of three biological replicates ±SE and * indicates significant differences for P£0.05 between the WT and pat mutant ovaries after one-way analysis of variance (DOC 37 kb)


Table S1. Sets of RT-PCR primers and PCR conditions used to amplify tomato gene-specific regions of coding sequences involved in GA biosynthesis and response (DOC 33 kb)

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Olimpieri, I., Siligato, F., Caccia, R. et al. Tomato fruit set driven by pollination or by the parthenocarpic fruit allele are mediated by transcriptionally regulated gibberellin biosynthesis . Planta 226, 877–888 (2007).

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