Open Access Open Badges Research article

Energy status of ripening and postharvest senescent fruit of litchi (Litchi chinensis Sonn.)

Hui Wang12, Zhengjiang Qian12, Sanmei Ma3, Yuchuan Zhou4, John W Patrick5, Xuewu Duan1, Yueming Jiang1 and Hongxia Qu1*

Author affiliations

1 Key Laboratory of Plant Resources Conservation and Sustainable Utilization, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, 510650, P R China

2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100049, P R China

3 Department of Biotechnology, Jinan University, Guangzhou, 510632, P R China

4 Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, the University of Queensland, Brisbane St Lucia, QLD, 4072, Australia

5 School of Environmental & Life Sciences, the University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, 2308, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13:55  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-55

Published: 2 April 2013



Recent studies have demonstrated that cellular energy is a key factor switching on ripening and senescence of fruit. However, the factors that influence fruit energy status remain largely unknown.


HPLC profiling showed that ATP abundance increased significantly in developing preharvest litchi fruit and was strongly correlated with fruit fresh weight. In contrast, ATP levels declined significantly during postharvest fruit senescence and were correlated with the decrease in the proportion of edible fruit. The five gene transcripts isolated from the litchi fruit pericarp were highly expressed in vegetative tissues and peaked at 70 days after flowering (DAF) consistent with fruit ADP concentrations, except for uncoupling mitochondrial protein 1 (UCP1), which was predominantly expressed in the root, and ATP synthase beta subunit (AtpB), which was up-regulated significantly before harvest and peaked 2 days after storage. These results indicated that the color-breaker stage at 70 DAF and 2 days after storage may be key turning points in fruit energy metabolism. Transcript abundance of alternative oxidase 1 (AOX1) increased after 2 days of storage to significantly higher levels than those of LcAtpB, and was down-regulated significantly by exogenous ATP. ATP supplementation had no significant effect on transcript abundance of ADP/ATP carrier 1 (AAC1) and slowed the changes in sucrose non-fermenting-1-related kinase 2 (SnRK2) expression, but maintained ATP and energy charge levels, which were correlated with delayed senescence.


Our results suggest that senescence of litchi fruit is closely related with energy. A surge of LcAtpB expression marked the beginning of fruit senescence. The findings may provide a new strategy to extend fruit shelf life by regulating its energy level.