Dissection of tomato lycopene biosynthesis through virus-induced gene silencing

Elio Fantini, Giulia Falcone, Sarah Frusciante, Leonardo Giliberto, Giovanni Giuliano

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Lycopene biosynthesis in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) fruits has been proposed to proceed through a poly-cis pathway catalyzed by phytoene synthase (PSY), two desaturases (phytoene desaturase PDS] and ζ-carotene desaturase ZDS]), and two cis-trans isomerases (ζ-carotene isomerase ZISO] and prolycopene isomerase CrtISO]). The mechanism of action of these enzymes has been studied in Escherichia coli, but a systematic study of their in vivo function is lacking. We studied the function of nine candidate genes (PSY1, PSY2, PSY3, PDS, ZDS, ZISO, CrtISO, CrtISO-Like1, and CrtISO-Like2) using virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) coupled to high-resolution liquid chromatography coupled with diode array detector and mass spectrometry, which allowed the identification and quantitation of 45 different carotenoid isomers, including linear xanthophylls. The data confirm the confinement of the VIGS signal to the silenced fruits and the similarity of the phenotypes of PSY1- and CrtISO-silenced fruits with those of the yellow flesh and tangerine mutants. Light was able to restore lycopene biosynthesis in ZISO-silenced fruits. Isomeric composition of fruits silenced at different metabolic steps suggested the existence of three functional units, comprising PSY1, PDS/ZISO, and ZDS/CrtISO, and responsible for the synthesis of 15-cis-phytoene, 9,9'-di-cis-ζ-carotene, and all-trans-lycopene, respectively. Silencing of a desaturase (PDS or ZDS) resulted in the induction of the isomerase in the same functional unit (ZISO or CrtISO, respectively). All-trans-ζ-carotene was detectable in nonsilenced fruits, greatly increased in ZDS-silenced ones, and disappeared in CrtISO-Like1-/CrtISO-Like2-silenced ones, suggesting the existence of a metabolic side branch, comprising this compound and initiated by the latter enzymes. © 2013 American Society of Plant Biologists. All Rights Reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)986 - 998
Number of pages13
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science

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