ABA may promote or delay peach fruit ripening through modulation of ripening- and hormone-related gene expression depending on the developmental stage.
Peach (Prunus persica laevis L. Batsch) was chosen as a model to further clarify the physiological role of ABA during fruit ripening. To this aim, branches bearing one fruit at mid-S3, S3/S4 and S4 stages of fruit development and characterized by a different ripening index (I(AD)), as revealed by a non-destructive device called a DA-meter, were treated with ABA (0.02 mM) for 1 and 5 days. Exogenously applied ABA interfered with the progression of ripening leading to less ripe or riper fruit depending on the physiological stage. To better understand the molecular basis of ABA interference with ripening, the time-course changes in the expression of ethylene-, cell wall-, and auxin-related genes as well as other genes (NCED, PIP, LOX, AOS and SOT) was evaluated in the fruit mesocarp. Real-time PCR analyses revealed that in mid-S3 fruit transcript levels of ethylene biosynthesis and signaling (ACS1, ACO1, ETR2, ERF2), cell wall softening-related (PG, PMEI, EXP1, EXP2) and auxin biosynthesis, conjugation, transport and perception (TRPB, IGPS, Aux/IAA, GH3, PIN1 and TIR1) genes were substantially down-regulated on day 5 indicating a ripening delay. On the contrary, in more advanced stages (S3/S4 and S4) the same genes were early (day 1) up-regulated suggesting an acceleration of ripening. Transcript profiling of other ripening-related genes revealed changes that were in accord with a ripening delay (mid-S3) or acceleration (S3/S4 and S4). Thus, in peach fruit, ABA appears to modulate ripening through interference not only with ethylene and cell wall but also with auxin-related genes.