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Transcriptomic and Metabolic Analyses Provide New Insights into the Apple Fruit Quality Decline during Long-Term Cold Storage

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journal contribution
posted on 2020-04-13, 13:40 authored by Juan Zhao, Pengkun Quan, Hangkong Liu, Lei Li, Siyan Qi, Mengsheng Zhang, Bo Zhang, Hao Li, Yanru Zhao, Baiquan Ma, Mingyu Han, Haihui Zhang, Libo Xing
Long-term low-temperature conditioning (LT-LTC) decreases apple fruit quality, but the underlying physiological and molecular basis is relatively uncharacterized. We identified 12 clusters of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) involved in multiple biological processes (i.e., sugar, malic acid, fatty acid, lipid, complex phytohormone, and stress-response pathways). The expression levels of genes in sugar pathways were correlated with decreasing starch levels during LT-LTC. Specifically, starch-synthesis-related genes (e.g., BE, SBE, and GBSS genes) exhibited downregulated expression, whereas sucrose-metabolism-related gene expression levels were up- or downregulated. The expression levels of genes in the malic acid pathway (ALMT9, AATP1, and AHA2) were upregulated, as well as the content of malic acid in apple fruit during LT-LTC. A total of 151 metabolites, mainly related to amino acids and their isoforms, amines, organic acids, fatty acids, sugars, and polyols, were identified during LT-LTC. Additionally, 35 organic-acid-related metabolites grouped into three clusters, I (3), II (22), and III (10), increased in abundance during LT-LTC. Multiple phytohormones regulated the apple fruit chilling injury response. The ethylene (ET) and abscisic acid (ABA) levels increased at CS2 and CS3, and jasmonate (JA) levels also increased during LT-LTC. Furthermore, the expression levels of genes involved in ET, ABA, and JA synthesis and response pathways were upregulated. Finally, some key transcription factor genes (MYB, bHLH, ERF, NAC, and bZIP genes) related to the apple fruit cold acclimation response were differentially expressed. Our results suggest that the multilayered mechanism underlying apple fruit deterioration during LT-LTC is a complex, transcriptionally regulated process involving cell structures, sugars, lipids, hormones, and transcription factors.