How Two Proteins Work Together to Soften Peaches as They Ripen

Greg Howard
18th April, 2024

How Two Proteins Work Together to Soften Peaches as They Ripen

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at Henan Agricultural University found genes that slow peach ripening
  • Silencing these genes resulted in firmer peaches, suggesting they control softening
  • This discovery could lead to longer-lasting peaches with less waste
Peaches, known for their juicy and succulent nature, face a significant hurdle once they're plucked from their branches: they soften rapidly. This poses a problem for everyone from farmers to consumers, as overly soft peaches can lead to increased waste due to spoilage. Addressing this issue, researchers at Henan Agricultural University have made a breakthrough in understanding the molecular dance that leads to peach fruit softening[1]. The study focuses on two genes, PpNAC1 and PpNAC5, located within a specific region of the peach genome associated with slower ripening. These genes are part of a family of transcription factors—proteins that help turn specific genes on or off—known as NACs, which play a pivotal role in plant development and response to environmental stress. Previous research has shown that NACs are involved in fruit development and ripening across various plant species[2]. Upon analyzing the genetic family tree of these genes, the researchers found that PpNAC1 and PpNAC5 are not only highly conserved across flowering plants but also that PpNAC1 is closely related to the tomato Non-ripening (NOR) gene. This tomato gene has been implicated in the control of fruit ripening—a process that includes the development of flavor, color, and texture[3]. The team discovered that the expression of PpNAC1 and PpNAC5 in peaches increases as the fruit begins to ripen. Through a series of experiments, including yeast two-hybrid and bimolecular fluorescence complementation assays, they demonstrated that these two proteins interact with each other, a behavior observed in their tomato and apple equivalents as well. To further probe the role of PpNAC1 and PpNAC5 in fruit softening, the researchers used gene silencing techniques to reduce the activity of these genes. The result was firmer peaches, indicating that PpNAC1 and PpNAC5 indeed promote the softening process. They then identified a promoter, PpPGF, which is a region of DNA that initiates the transcription of a gene, and showed that PpNAC1 and PpNAC5 could bind to this promoter and activate it. This activation leads to the transcription of genes responsible for the breakdown of the cell walls, a key part of the softening process. The study also uncovered that when PpNAC1 and PpNAC5 are expressed together, they have a greater effect on activating PpPGF than when they are alone. This suggests that these transcription factors work in tandem to regulate the softening of peach fruit. This research ties in with earlier findings that have outlined the importance of volatile ester production in fruit flavor development, regulated by similar NAC transcription factors[3]. Additionally, it supports previous observations regarding the role of NAC transcription factors in the lignification of the fruit endocarp layer, which is crucial for seed protection[4]. The implications of this study are far-reaching. By manipulating the activity of PpNAC1 and PpNAC5, it may be possible to extend the shelf life of peaches without compromising their flavor or nutritional value. This could lead to reduced waste, lower distribution costs, and potentially, more consistent quality of peaches available to consumers. In summary, the collaborative effort of researchers at Henan Agricultural University has uncovered a synergistic mechanism by which two transcription factors regulate the softening of peach fruits. Their work not only sheds light on the intricate mechanisms of fruit ripening but also offers a promising avenue for improving peach storage and shelf life, which could have significant benefits for the agricultural industry and consumers alike.

GeneticsPlant Science


Main Study

1) Tandem transcription factors PpNAC1 and PpNAC5 synergistically activate the transcription of the PpPGF to regulate peach softening during fruit ripening.

Published 17th April, 2024

Journal: Plant molecular biology

Issue: Vol 114, Issue 3, Apr 2024

Related Studies

2) The NAC side of the fruit: tuning of fruit development and maturation.

3) Transcriptional and epigenetic analysis reveals that NAC transcription factors regulate fruit flavor ester biosynthesis.

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

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