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Open Access Research article

Integration of tomato reproductive developmental landmarks and expression profiles, and the effect of SUN on fruit shape

Han Xiao1, Cheryll Radovich1, Nicholas Welty1, Jason Hsu3, Dongmei Li3, Tea Meulia2 and Esther van der Knaap1*

Author Affiliations

1 Horticulture and Crop Science, The Ohio State University/OARDC, Wooster, OH 44691, USA

2 Molecular and Cellular Imaging Center, The Ohio State University/OARDC, Wooster, OH 44691, USA

3 Department of Statistics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA

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BMC Plant Biology 2009, 9:49  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-9-49

Published: 7 May 2009



Universally accepted landmark stages are necessary to highlight key events in plant reproductive development and to facilitate comparisons among species. Domestication and selection of tomato resulted in many varieties that differ in fruit shape and size. This diversity is useful to unravel underlying molecular and developmental mechanisms that control organ morphology and patterning. The tomato fruit shape gene SUN controls fruit elongation. The most dramatic effect of SUN on fruit shape occurs after pollination and fertilization although a detailed investigation into the timing of the fruit shape change as well as gene expression profiles during critical developmental stages has not been conducted.


We provide a description of floral and fruit development in a red-fruited closely related wild relative of tomato, Solanum pimpinellifolium accession LA1589. We use established and propose new floral and fruit landmarks to present a framework for tomato developmental studies. In addition, gene expression profiles of three key stages in floral and fruit development are presented, namely floral buds 10 days before anthesis (floral landmark 7), anthesis-stage flowers (floral landmark 10 and fruit landmark 1), and 5 days post anthesis fruit (fruit landmark 3). To demonstrate the utility of the landmarks, we characterize the tomato shape gene SUN in fruit development. SUN controls fruit shape predominantly after fertilization and its effect reaches a maximum at 8 days post-anthesis coinciding with fruit landmark 4 representing the globular embryo stage of seed development. The expression profiles of the NILs that differ at sun show that only 34 genes were differentially expressed and most of them at a less than 2-fold difference.


The landmarks for flower and fruit development in tomato were outlined and integrated with the effect of SUN on fruit shape. Although we did not identify many genes differentially expressed in the NILs that differ at the sun locus, higher or lower transcript levels for many genes involved in phytohormone biosynthesis or signaling as well as organ identity and patterning of tomato fruit were found between developmental time points.