Engineering the polyphenolic biosynthetic pathway stimulates metabolic and molecular changes during fruit ripening in “Bronze” tomato.

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The metabolic engineered Bronze tomato line is characterized by the constitutive over-expression of the VvStSy gene encoding a structural protein responsible for the stilbenoids biosynthesis and the fruit-specific over-expression of AmDel/Rosea1 and AtMYB12 genes encoding transcription factors that activate the polyphenol biosynthetic pathway. This tomato line is known for the increased levels of polyphenols in ripe fruits and for beneficial health promoting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. In this study we analyzed the transcriptional and metabolic profiling in mature green, breaker, orange and ripe fruits compared to the normal tomato counterparts during ripening, to unravel the effect of regulatory and structural transgenes on metabolic fluxes of primary and secondary metabolisms. Our results showed that the shikimate synthase (SK) gene was up-regulated in the Bronze fruit, and the transcriptional activation is consistent with the metabolic changes observed throughout fruit ripening. These results paralleled with a reduced level of simple sugars and malate, highlighting the consumption of primary metabolites to favor secondary metabolites production and accumulation. Finally, carotenoids quantification revealed a change in the lycopene/ß-carotene ratio in the Bronze fruit as a consequence of significant lower level of the first and higher levels of the latter. The high polyphenols and ß-carotene content displayed by the Bronze fruit at the later stages of fruit ripening renders this line an interesting model to study the additive or synergic effects of these phyto-chemicals in the prevention of human pathologies.