The fading distinctions between classical patterns of ripening in climacteric and non-climacteric fruit and the ubiquity of ethylene-An overview

J Food Sci Technol. 2012 Feb;49(1):1-21. doi: 10.1007/s13197-011-0293-4. Epub 2011 Feb 11.


The process of fruit ripening is normally viewed distinctly in climacteric and non-climacteric fruits. But, many fruits such as guava, melon, Japanese plum, Asian pear and pepper show climacteric as well as non-climacteric behaviour depending on the cultivar or genotype. Investigations on in planta levels of CO2 and ethylene at various stages of fruits during ripening supported the role and involvement of changes in the rate of respiration and ethylene production in non-climacteric fruits such as strawberry, grapes and citrus. Non-climacteric fruits are also reported to respond to the exogenous application of ethylene. Comparative analysis of plant-attached and plant-detached fruits did not show similarity in their ripening behaviour. This disparity is being explained in view of 1. Hypothetical ripening inhibitor, 2. Differences in the production, release and endogenous levels of ethylene, 3. Sensitivity of fruits towards ethylene and 4. Variations in the gaseous microenvironment among fruits and their varieties. Detailed studies on genetic and inheritance patterns along with the application of '-omics' research indicated that ethylene-dependent and ethylene-independent pathways coexist in both climacteric and non-climacteric fruits. Auxin levels also interact with ethylene in regulating ripening. These findings therefore reveal that the classification of fruits based on climacteric rise and/or ethylene production status is not very distinct or perfect. However, presence of a characteristic rise in CO2 levels and a burst in ethylene production in some non-climacteric fruits as well as the presence of system 2 of ethylene production point to a ubiquitous role for ethylene in fruit ripening.

Keywords: Climacteric; Ethylene; Fruit ripening; Non-climacteric; Respiration; System 1; System 2.