Industrialized tomato production faces a decrease in flavors and nutritional value due to conventional breeding. Moreover, tomato production heavily relies on nitrogen and phosphate fertilization. Phosphate uptake and improvement of fruit quality by arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are well-studied. We addressed the question of whether commercially used tomato cultivars grown in a hydroponic system can be mycorrhizal, leading to improved fruit quality. Tomato plants inoculated with Rhizophagus irregularis were grown under different phosphate concentrations and in substrates used in industrial tomato production. Changes in fruit gene expression and metabolite levels were checked by RNAseq and metabolite determination, respectively. The tests revealed that reduction of phosphate to 80% and use of mixed substrate allow AM establishment without affecting yield. By comparing green fruits from non-mycorrhizal and mycorrhizal plants, differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were found to possibly be involved in processes regulating fruit maturation and nutrition. Red fruits from mycorrhizal plants showed a trend of higher BRIX values and increased levels of carotenoids in comparison to those from non-mycorrhizal plants. Free amino acids exhibited up to four times higher levels in red fruits due to AM, showing the potential of mycorrhization to increase the nutritional value of tomatoes in industrialized production.
Keywords: BRIX value; arbuscular mycorrhiza; carotenoids; free amino acids; fruit quality; hydroponic cultivation; phosphate; tomato; transcript profiling (RNAseq); yield.