Open Access Research article

Parthenocarpic potential in Capsicum annuum L. is enhanced by carpelloid structures and controlled by a single recessive gene

Aparna Tiwari1, Adam Vivian-Smith25, Roeland E Voorrips3, Myckel EJ Habets2, Lin B Xue4, Remko Offringa2 and Ep Heuvelink1*

Author Affiliations

1 Horticultural Supply Chains, Plant Sciences Group, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 630, 6700 AP Wageningen, The Netherlands

2 Molecular and Developmental Genetics, Institute of Biology, Leiden University, Sylvius Laboratory, Sylviusweg 72, 2333 BE Leiden, The Netherlands

3 Plant Research International, Plant Sciences Group, Wageningen University and Research Center, P.O. Box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands

4 Department of Horticulture, Yangzhou University, Yangzhou, Jiangsu, PR China

5 Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute, Høgskoleveien 8, 1431 Ås, Norway

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BMC Plant Biology 2011, 11:143  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-11-143

Published: 21 October 2011



Parthenocarpy is a desirable trait in Capsicum annuum production because it improves fruit quality and results in a more regular fruit set. Previously, we identified several C. annuum genotypes that already show a certain level of parthenocarpy, and the seedless fruits obtained from these genotypes often contain carpel-like structures. In the Arabidopsis bel1 mutant ovule integuments are transformed into carpels, and we therefore carefully studied ovule development in C. annuum and correlated aberrant ovule development and carpelloid transformation with parthenocarpic fruit set.


We identified several additional C. annuum genotypes with a certain level of parthenocarpy, and confirmed a positive correlation between parthenocarpic potential and the development of carpelloid structures. Investigations into the source of these carpel-like structures showed that while the majority of the ovules in C. annuum gynoecia are unitegmic and anatropous, several abnormal ovules were observed, abundant at the top and base of the placenta, with altered integument growth. Abnormal ovule primordia arose from the placenta and most likely transformed into carpelloid structures in analogy to the Arabidopsis bel1 mutant. When pollination was present fruit weight was positively correlated with seed number, but in the absence of seeds, fruit weight proportionally increased with the carpelloid mass and number. Capsicum genotypes with high parthenocarpic potential always showed stronger carpelloid development. The parthenocarpic potential appeared to be controlled by a single recessive gene, but no variation in coding sequence was observed in a candidate gene CaARF8.


Our results suggest that in the absence of fertilization most C. annuum genotypes, have parthenocarpic potential and carpelloid growth, which can substitute developing seeds in promoting fruit development.