Melon ripening innovation: Pioneering study combines key genetic factors to improve fruit quality and aroma

Fruit development, especially ripening, is an important and dynamic stage of plant life, important for human consumption and plant reproduction. It involves biochemical and physiological changes, such as cell wall softening and pigment accumulation. melon (Cucumis melo L.), with both climacteric and non-climacteric varieties, has gained attention as a model for the study of fruit ripening processes, aided by genetic resources such as Recombinant Inbred Lines and sequenced genomes. Recent research has identified key Quantitative Trait Loci (QTLs) that influence melon ripening, such as ETHQB3.5, ETHQV6.3, and ETHQV8.1. These QTLs affect ethylene production and other ripening traits. However, the interaction of these QTLs and their collective effect on melon ripening and fruit quality remains an unexplored area of ​​research.

In June 2022, Horticultural Research published a research article titled “Modulating climacteric intensity in melon through QTL stacking“.

The parental lines used in this research show different ripening characteristics and fruit qualities. The PS variety produces a small amount of ethylene, indicating that it is non-climacteric in nature. Songwan Charmi (SC), although not climacteric, exhibits some climacteric characteristics, such as aroma production. Védrantais (Ved, climacteric) shows typical climacteric fruit ripening, with a sharp ethylene peak and noticeable climacteric characteristics. In terms of fruit quality, PS produced the most fruit, while SC produced the least. However, no significant differences were observed among the lines regarding soluble solids content or stability. Analysis of the aroma profile revealed that Ved accumulated the most volatile organic compounds (VOC), followed by SC, and PS the least. The diversity of VOCs is also the highest in Ved. The study then developed Introgression Lines (ILs) in the PS background with different combinations of QTLs. The analysis showed that these ILs influence climacteric symptoms such as early aroma production and abscission layer formation. Ethylene production in these lines varied, with those with more than one QTL showing earlier and higher ethylene production. ETHQV6.3 and ETHQB3.5 had significant effects on the earlyness and sharpness of the ethylene peaks, respectively. However ETHQV8.1 had no significant effect on the ethylene peak, it enhanced the effects of the other two QTLs. ILs also show a significant increase in total volatiles production, especially in esters, and vary in their production of other minor compounds such as alcohols and terpenes. Interestingly, while ILs generally mirrored Ved in flower and fruit aroma compounds, they did not change other fruit qualities such as weight, sugar content, or firmness.

In conclusion, this study successfully linked three Quantitative Trait Loci (QTLs) – ETHQB3.5, ETHQV6.3, and ETHQV8.1 – in the non-climacteric melon variety Piel de Sapo to modify the climacteric ripening and associated characteristics and explained its roles and interactions. The method shows how genetic manipulation can fine-tune fruit characteristics, opening the way for the cultivation of melons with different shelf lives and aromatic qualities, improving in their commercial and appeal to consumers.




Miguel Santo Domingo1Lorena Areco1Carlos Mayobre1Laura Valverde1Ana Montserrat Martín-Hernández1,2Marta Pujol1,2,* and Jordi Garcia-Mas1,2,*


1Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) CSIC-IRTA-UAB-UB, Edifici CRAG, Campus UAB, Bellaterra, 08193 Barcelona, ​​Spain

2Institut de Recerca y Tecnologia Agoralimentàries (IRTA), Edifici CRAG, Campus UAB, Bellaterra, 08193 Barcelona, ​​​​Spain

About Marta Pujol & Jordi Garcia-Mas

Marta Pujol: Marta Pujol is a researcher at IRTA in the Plant and Animal Genomics Program of the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) since 2006. Most of her work is based on the mapping of important agronomic traits, under monogenic and quantitative inheritance of 7 types: melon, cucumber, watermelon, zucchini, tomato, pepper and eggplant. He also works on TILLING platforms in melon, cucumber, eggplant and tomato looking for mutants in genes of agronomic interest. His public research is aimed at deciphering the genetics of ripening, fruit quality and disease resistance of melon.

Jordi Garcia-Mas: He is a researcher at the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG). His research focuses on the development of genomic tools to characterize important agronomic traits of melon and related species 1. Analysis of melon variability using re-sequencing of melon germplasm. 2. Characterization of QTLs for melon fruit ripening. The objective is to understand the molecular basis of non-climacteric ripening found in inodorus melon genotypes. 3. Characterization of QTLs for the accumulation of sugars in melon fruit.

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