Cuticular waxes are known to play a pivotal role in limiting transpirational water loss across primary plant surfaces. The astomatous tomato fruit is an ideal model system that permits the functional characterization of intact cuticular membranes and therefore allows direct correlation of their permeance for water with their qualitative and quantitative composition. The recessive positional sterile (ps) mutation, which occurred spontaneously in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.), is characterized by floral organ fusion and positional sterility. Because of a striking phenotypical similarity with the lecer6 wax mutant of tomato, which is defective in very-long-chain fatty acid elongation, ps mutant fruits were analyzed for their cuticular wax and cutin composition. We also examined their cuticular permeance for water following the developmental course of fruit ripening. Wild type and ps mutant fruits showed considerable differences in their cuticular permeance for water, while exhibiting similar quantitative wax accumulation. The ps mutant fruits showed a five- to eightfold increase in water loss per unit time and surface area when compared to the corresponding wild type fruits. The cuticular waxes of ps mutant fruits were characterized by an almost complete absence of n-alkanes and aldehydes, with a concomitant increase in triterpenoids and sterol derivatives. We also noted the occurrence of alkyl esters not present in the wild type. Quantitative and qualitative cutin monomer composition remained largely unaffected. The significant differences in the cuticular wax composition of ps mutant fruits induced a distinct increase of cuticular water permeance. The fruit wax compositional phenotype indicates the ps mutation is responsible for effectively blocking the decarbonylation pathway of wax biosynthesis in epidermal cells of tomato fruits.
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