Fruit ripening involves complex biochemical and physiological changes. Ethylene is an essential hormone for the ripening of climacteric fruits. In the process of ethylene biosynthesis, cyanide (HCN), an extremely toxic compound, is produced as a co-product. Thus, most cyanide produced during fruit ripening should be detoxified rapidly by fruit cells. In higher plants, the key enzyme involved in the detoxification of HCN is β-cyanoalanine synthase (β-CAS). As little is known about the molecular function of β-CAS genes in climacteric fruits, we identified two homologous genes, MdCAS1 and MdCAS2, encoding Fuji apple β-CAS homologs. The structural features of the predicted polypeptides as well as an in vitro enzyme activity assay with bacterially expressed recombinant proteins indicated that MdCAS1 and MdCAS2 may indeed function as β-CAS isozymes in apple fruits. RNA gel-blot studies revealed that both MdCAS1 and MdCAS2 mRNAs were coordinately induced during the ripening process of apple fruits in an expression pattern comparable with that of ACC oxidase and ethylene production. The MdCAS genes were also activated effectively by exogenous ethylene treatment and mechanical wounding. Thus, it seems like that, in ripening apple fruits, expression of MdCAS1 and MdCAS2 genes is intimately correlated with a climacteric ethylene production and ACC oxidase activity. In addition, β-CAS enzyme activity was also enhanced as the fruit ripened, although this increase was not as dramatic as the mRNA induction pattern. Overall, these results suggest that MdCAS may play a role in cyanide detoxification in ripening apple fruits.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Plant Science