Considerable progress in tomato molecular biology has been made over the past five years. At least 19 different mRNAs which increase in amount during tomato fruit ripening have been cloned and genes for enzymes involved in cell wall degradation (polygalacturonase and pectinesterase) and ethylene synthesis (ACC synthase) have been identified by conventional procedures. Transgenic plants have been used to identify regions of DNA flanking fruit-specific, ripening-related and ethylene-regulated genes and trans-acting factors which bind to these promoters have also been identified. Antisense genes expressed in transgenic plants have proved to be highly effective for inhibiting the specific expression of ripening-related genes. These experiments have changed our understanding of how softening occurs in tomato fruit. Antisense techniques have also been used to identify genes encoding enzymes for carotenoid biosynthesis (phytoene synthase) and ethylene biosynthesis (the ethylene-forming enzyme). The altered characteristics of fruit transformed with specific antisense genes, such as retarded ripening and resistance to splitting, may prove to be of value to fruit growers, processors and ultimately the consumer.