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Open Access Research article

Stone formation in peach fruit exhibits spatial coordination of the lignin and flavonoid pathways and similarity to Arabidopsis dehiscence

Christopher D Dardick1*, Ann M Callahan1, Remo Chiozzotto2, Robert J Schaffer3, M Claudia Piagnani2 and Ralph Scorza1

Author Affiliations

1 Appalachian Fruit Research Station, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Kearneysville, WV, 25430, USA

2 Department of Crop Production, Fruit Tree Unit, University of Milan, Milan 20133, Italy

3 The New Zealand Institute of Plant and Food Research, Mt Albert, Auckland 1142, New Zealand

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BMC Biology 2010, 8:13  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-8-13

Published: 9 February 2010

Abstract

Background

Lignification of the fruit endocarp layer occurs in many angiosperms and plays a critical role in seed protection and dispersal. This process has been extensively studied with relationship to pod shatter or dehiscence in Arabidopsis. Dehiscence is controlled by a set of transcription factors that define the fruit tissue layers and whether or not they lignify. In contrast, relatively little is known about similar processes in other plants such as stone fruits which contain an extremely hard lignified endocarp or stone surrounding a single seed.

Results

Here we show that lignin deposition in peach initiates near the blossom end within the endocarp layer and proceeds in a distinct spatial-temporal pattern. Microarray studies using a developmental series from young fruits identified a sharp and transient induction of phenylpropanoid, lignin and flavonoid pathway genes concurrent with lignification and subsequent stone hardening. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction studies revealed that specific phenylpropanoid (phenylalanine ammonia-lyase and cinnamate 4-hydroxylase) and lignin (caffeoyl-CoA O-methyltransferase, peroxidase and laccase) pathway genes were induced in the endocarp layer over a 10 day time period, while two lignin genes (p-coumarate 3-hydroxylase and cinnamoyl CoA reductase) were co-regulated with flavonoid pathway genes (chalcone synthase, dihydroflavanol 4-reductase, leucoanthocyanidin dioxygen-ase and flavanone-3-hydrosylase) which were mesocarp and exocarp specific. Analysis of other fruit development expression studies revealed that flavonoid pathway induction is conserved in the related Rosaceae species apple while lignin pathway induction is not. The transcription factor expression of peach genes homologous to known endocarp determinant genes in Arabidopsis including SHATTERPROOF, SEEDSTCK and NAC SECONDARY WALL THICENING PROMOTING FACTOR 1 were found to be specifically expressed in the endocarp while the negative regulator FRUITFUL predominated in exocarp and mesocarp.

Conclusions

Collectively, the data suggests, first, that the process of endocarp determination and differentiation in peach and Arabidopsis share common regulators and, secondly, reveals a previously unknown coordination of competing lignin and flavonoid biosynthetic pathways during early fruit development.