Commercial tomatoes are widely perceived by consumers as lacking flavor. A major part of that problem is a postharvest handling system that chills fruit. Low-temperature storage is widely used to slow ripening and reduce decay. However, chilling results in loss of flavor. Flavor-associated volatiles are sensitive to temperatures below 12 °C, and their loss greatly reduces flavor quality. Here, we provide a comprehensive view of the effects of chilling on flavor and volatiles associated with consumer liking. Reduced levels of specific volatiles are associated with significant reductions in transcripts encoding key volatile synthesis enzymes. Although expression of some genes critical to volatile synthesis recovers after a return to 20 °C, some genes do not. RNAs encoding transcription factors essential for ripening, including RIPENING INHIBITOR (RIN), NONRIPENING, and COLORLESS NONRIPENING are reduced in response to chilling and may be responsible for reduced transcript levels in many downstream genes during chilling. Those reductions are accompanied by major changes in the methylation status of promoters, including RIN. Methylation changes are transient and may contribute to the fidelity of gene expression required to provide maximal beneficial environmental response with minimal tangential influence on broader fruit developmental biology.
Via Jennifer Mach