Uniform ripening Encodes a Golden 2-like Transcription Factor Regulating Tomato Fruit Chloroplast Development

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Science  29 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6089, pp. 1711-1715
DOI: 10.1126/science.1222218

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Pretty or Sweet

The grocery-store tomato that looks beautiful but tastes like tart cardboard arises from selection processes favoring phenotypes that make commercial production more reliable. Significant in that selection process was a mutation that reduced the mottled color variations of unripe green tomatoes, leaving them a uniform, pale, green. Powell et al. (p. 1711) analyzed the molecular biology of the mutation. The uniform ripening mutation turns out to disable a transcription factor called Golden 2-like (GLK2). GLK2 expression increases the fruit's photosynthetic capacity, resulting in higher sugar content.


Modern tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) varieties are bred for uniform ripening (u) light green fruit phenotypes to facilitate harvests of evenly ripened fruit. U encodes a Golden 2-like (GLK) transcription factor, SlGLK2, which determines chlorophyll accumulation and distribution in developing fruit. In tomato, two GLKs—SlGLK1 and SlGLK2—are expressed in leaves, but only SlGLK2 is expressed in fruit. Expressing GLKs increased the chlorophyll content of fruit, whereas SlGLK2 suppression recapitulated the u mutant phenotype. GLK overexpression enhanced fruit photosynthesis gene expression and chloroplast development, leading to elevated carbohydrates and carotenoids in ripe fruit. SlGLK2 influences photosynthesis in developing fruit, contributing to mature fruit characteristics and suggesting that selection of u inadvertently compromised ripe fruit quality in exchange for desirable production traits.

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