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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Transcriptomic analysis of tomato carpel development reveals alterations in ethylene and gibberellin synthesis during pat3/pat4 parthenocarpic fruit set

Laura Pascual, Jose M Blanca, Joaquin Cañizares* and Fernado Nuez

Author Affiliations

Instituto de Conservación y Mejora de la Agrodiversidad Valenciana (COMAV), Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Camino de Vera s/n, 46022 Valencia, Spain

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BMC Plant Biology 2009, 9:67  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-9-67

Published: 29 May 2009



Tomato fruit set is a key process that has a great economic impact on crop production. We employed the Affymetrix GeneChip Tomato Genome Array to compare the transcriptome of a non-parthenocarpic line, UC82, with that of the parthenocarpic line RP75/59 (pat3/pat4 mutant). We analyzed the transcriptome under normal conditions as well as with forced parthenocarpic development in RP75/59, emasculating the flowers 2 days before anthesis. This analysis helps to understand the fruit set in tomato.


Differentially expressed genes were extracted with maSigPro, which is designed for the analysis of single and multiseries time course microarray experiments. 2842 genes showed changes throughout normal carpel development and fruit set. Most of them showed a change of expression at or after anthesis. The main differences between lines were concentrated at the anthesis stage. We found 758 genes differentially expressed in parthenocarpic fruit set. Among these genes we detected cell cycle-related genes that were still activated at anthesis in the parthenocarpic line, which shows the lack of arrest in the parthenocarpic line at anthesis. Key genes for the synthesis of gibberellins and ethylene, which were up-regulated in the parthenocarpic line were also detected.


Comparisons between array experiments determined that anthesis was the most different stage and the key point at which most of the genes were modulated. In the parthenocarpic line, anthesis seemed to be a short transitional stage to fruit set. In this line, the high GAs contends leads to the development of a parthenocarpic fruit, and ethylene may mimic pollination signals, inducing auxin synthesis in the ovary and the development of a jelly fruit.