Anthocyanins double the shelf life of tomatoes by delaying overripening and reducing susceptibility to gray mold

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Shelf life is an important quality trait for many fruit, including tomatoes. We report that enrichment of anthocyanin, a natural pigment, in tomatoes can significantly extend shelf life. Processes late in ripening are suppressed by anthocyanin accumulation, and susceptibility to Botrytis cinerea, one of the most important postharvest pathogens, is reduced in purple tomato fruit. We show that reduced susceptibility to B. cinerea is dependent specifically on the accumulation of anthocyanins, which alter the spreading of the ROS burst during infection. The increased antioxidant capacity of purple fruit likely slows the processes of overripening. Enhancing the levels of natural antioxidants in tomato provides a novel strategy for extending shelf life by genetic engineering or conventional breeding.