The Never-ripe mutation blocks ethylene perception in tomato
Fruit ripening represents a complex system of genetic and hormonal regulation of eukaryotic development unique to plants. We are using tomato ripening mutants as tools to elucidate genetic components of ripening regulation and have recently demonstrated that the Never-ripe (Nr) mutant is insensitive to the plant growth regulator ethylene (MB Lanahan, HC Yen, JJ Giovannoni, HJ Klee  Plant Cell 6:521-530). We report here ethylene sensitivity over a range of concentrations in normal and Nr tomato seedlings and show that the Nr mutant retains residual sensitivity to as little as 1 part per million of ethylene. Analysis of ripening-related gene expression in normal and mutant ethylene-treated fruit demonstrates that Nr exerts its influence on development at least in part at the level of ethylene-inducible gene expression. We have additionally used cloned tomato and Arabidopsis sequences known to influence ethylene perception as restriction fragment length polymorphism probes, and have identified a tomato locus linked to Nr that hybridizes to the Arabidopsis ETR1 gene at low stringency, suggesting the possibility that Nr may be homologous to ETR1. (Figure below)
Transgenic (left) and control tomato fruits picked when ripe and stored for five weeks.