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Open Access Research article

Temporal and spatial expression of polygalacturonase gene family members reveals divergent regulation during fleshy fruit ripening and abscission in the monocot species oil palm

Peerapat Roongsattham1, Fabienne Morcillo2, Chatchawan Jantasuriyarat3, Maxime Pizot1, Steven Moussu2, Dasuni Jayaweera4, Myriam Collin1, Zinnia H Gonzalez-Carranza4, Philippe Amblard5, James W Tregear1, Somvong Tragoonrung6, Jean-Luc Verdeil7 and Timothy J Tranbarger1*

Author affiliations

1 Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, IRD Centre de Montpellier, IRD/CIRAD Palm Development Group, DIADE 911 avenue agropolis BP 64501, 34394, Montpellier cedex 5, France

2 Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement, CIRAD, UMR DIADE, Montpellier, F-34398, France

3 Department of Genetics, Faculty of Science, Kasetsart University, Bangkhen Campus, 50 Phahonyothin Road, Jatujak, Thailand

4 Division, Loughborough, The University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, School of Biosciences, Plant Science, Leicestershire, LE12 5RD, United Kingdom

5 PalmElit SAS, Montferrier-sur-Lez, F–34980, France

6 Genome Institute, National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, BIOTEC, 113 Thailand Science Park, Phahonyothin Road, Klong 1, Klong Luang, Pathumthani, 12120, Thailand

7 Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement CIRAD, UMR AGAP, MRI-PHIV, Montpellier, F-34398, France

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Citation and License

BMC Plant Biology 2012, 12:150  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-150

Published: 25 August 2012



Cell separation that occurs during fleshy fruit abscission and dry fruit dehiscence facilitates seed dispersal, the final stage of plant reproductive development. While our understanding of the evolutionary context of cell separation is limited mainly to the eudicot model systems tomato and Arabidopsis, less is known about the mechanisms underlying fruit abscission in crop species, monocots in particular. The polygalacturonase (PG) multigene family encodes enzymes involved in the depolymerisation of pectin homogalacturonan within the primary cell wall and middle lamella. PG activity is commonly found in the separation layers during organ abscission and dehiscence, however, little is known about how this gene family has diverged since the separation of monocot and eudicots and the consequence of this divergence on the abscission process.


The objective of the current study was to identify PGs responsible for the high activity previously observed in the abscission zone (AZ) during fruit shedding of the tropical monocot oil palm, and to analyze PG gene expression during oil palm fruit ripening and abscission. We identified 14 transcripts that encode PGs, all of which are expressed in the base of the oil palm fruit. The accumulation of five PG transcripts increase, four decrease and five do not change during ethylene treatments that induce cell separation. One PG transcript (EgPG4) is the most highly induced in the fruit base, with a 700–5000 fold increase during the ethylene treatment. In situ hybridization experiments indicate that the EgPG4 transcript increases preferentially in the AZ cell layers in the base of the fruit in response to ethylene prior to cell separation.


The expression pattern of EgPG4 is consistent with the temporal and spatial requirements for cell separation to occur during oil palm fruit shedding. The sequence diversity of PGs and the complexity of their expression in the oil palm fruit tissues contrast with data from tomato, suggesting functional divergence underlying the ripening and abscission processes has occurred between these two fruit species. Furthermore, phylogenetic analysis of EgPG4 with PGs from other species suggests some conservation, but also diversification has occurred between monocots and eudicots, in particular between dry and fleshy fruit species.

Abscission; Fruit development; Elaeis guineensis; Polygalacturonase; Ethylene; Cell separation