Hormonal and transcriptional analyses of fruit development and ripening in different varieties of black pepper (Piper nigrum)


Black pepper (Piper nigrum L.) is one of the most popular and oldest spices in the world with culinary uses and various pharmacological properties. In order to satisfy the growing worldwide demand for black pepper, improved productivity of pepper is highly desirable. A primary constraint in black pepper production is the non-synchronous nature of flower development and non-uniform fruit ripening within a spike. The uneven ripening of pepper berries results in a high labour requirement for selective harvesting contributes to low productivity and affects the quality of the pepper products. In Malaysia, there are a few recommended varieties for black pepper planting, each having some limitations in addition to the useful characteristics. Therefore, a comparative study of different black pepper varieties will provide a better understanding of the mechanisms regulates fruit development and ripening. Plant hormones are known to influence the fruit development process and their roles in black pepper flower and fruit development were inferred based on the probe-based gene expression analysis and the quantification of the multiple plant hormones using high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC–MS/MS). In this study, jasmonic acid and salicylic acid were found to play roles in flowering and fruit setting, whereas auxin, gibberellin and cytokinins are important for fruit growth. Abscisic acid has positive role in fruit maturation and ripening in the development process. Distinct pattern of plant hormones related gene expression profiles with the hormones accumulation profiles suggested a complex network of regulation is involved in the signaling process and crosstalk between plant hormones was another layer of regulation in the black pepper fruit development mechanisms. The current study provides clues to help in elucidating the timing of the action of each specific plant hormone during fruit development and ripening which could be applied to enhance our ability to control the ripening process, leading to improving procedures for the production and post-harvest handling of pepper fruits.

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We are grateful to Voon Suk Cheng for her help in samples collection and preparation. The plant hormone analysis reported herein was supported by the Joint Research Program implemented at the Institute of Plant Science and Resources, Okayama University, Japan. This work was also supported in part by grants provided by Malaysian Pepper Board of Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities (P2011300015016). The authors confirm that there are no known conflicts of interest associated with this publication and there has been no significant financial support for this work that could influence its outcome.

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Khew, C., Mori, I.C., Matsuura, T. et al. Hormonal and transcriptional analyses of fruit development and ripening in different varieties of black pepper (Piper nigrum). J Plant Res 133, 73–94 (2020) doi:10.1007/s10265-019-01156-0

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  • Black pepper (Piper nigrum L.)
  • Plant hormones
  • Fruit development
  • Ripening
  • Gene expression