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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 33(2)

Cell wall disassembly in ripening fruit

David A. Brummell

New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food Research Ltd., Food Industry Science Centre, Batchelar Road, Palmerston North, 5301, New Zealand. Email: BrummellD@crop.cri.nz
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Fruit softening during ripening involves a coordinated series of modifications to the polysaccharide components of the primary cell wall and middle lamella, resulting in a weakening of the structure. Degradation of polysaccharides and alterations in the bonding between polymers cause an increase in cell separation and a softening and swelling of the wall, which, combined with alterations in turgor, bring about fruit softening and textural changes. A wide range in the extent of cell wall pectic modifications has been observed between species, whereas the depolymerisation of xyloglucan is relatively limited and more consistent. The earliest events to be initiated are usually a loss of pectic galactan side chains and the depolymerisation of matrix glycans, which may begin before ripening, followed by a loss of pectic arabinan side chains and pectin solubilisation. The depolymerisation of pectins may begin during early to mid-ripening, but is usually most pronounced late in ripening. However, some of these events may be absent or occur at very low levels in some species. Cell wall swelling may be related to a loosening of the xyloglucan–cellulose network and to pectin solubilisation, and these processes combined with the loss of pectic side chains increase wall porosity. An increase in wall porosity later in ripening may allow increased access of degradative enzymes to their substrates.

Keywords: cell wall polysaccharides, fruit softening, fruit texture, matrix glycan depolymerisation, pectin depolymerisation, pectin solubilisation.

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