Engineered polyamine accumulation in tomato enhances phytonutrient content, juice quality, and vine life.
Mehta RA., Cassol T., Li N., Ali N., Handa AK., Mattoo AK.
Polyamines, ubiquitous organic aliphatic cations, have been implicated in a myriad of physiological and developmental processes in many organisms, but their in vivo functions remain to be determined. We expressed a yeast S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase gene (ySAMdc; Spe2) fused with a ripening-inducible E8 promoter to specifically increase levels of the polyamines spermidine and spermine in tomato fruit during ripening. Independent transgenic plants and their segregating lines were evaluated after cultivation in the greenhouse and in the field for five successive generations. The enhanced expression of the ySAMdc gene resulted in increased conversion of putrescine into higher polyamines and thus to ripening-specific accumulation of spermidine and spermine. This led to an increase in lycopene, prolonged vine life, and enhanced fruit juice quality. Lycopene levels in cultivated tomatoes are generally low, and increasing them in the fruit enhances its nutrient value. Furthermore, the rates of ethylene production in the transgenic tomato fruit were consistently higher than those in the nontransgenic control fruit. These data show that polyamine and ethylene biosynthesis pathways can act simultaneously in ripening tomato fruit. Taken together, these results provide the first direct evidence for a physiological role of polyamines and demonstrate an approach to improving nutritional quality, juice quality, and vine life of tomato fruit.