Comparison of ripening processes in intact tomato fruit and excised pericarp discs
Physiological processes characteristic of ripening in tissues of intact tomato fruit (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) were examined in excised pericarp discs. Pericarp discs were prepared from mature-green tomato fruit and stored in 24-well culture plates, in which individual discs could be monitored for color change, ethylene biosynthesis, and respiration, and selected for cell wall analysis. Within the context of these preparation and handling procedures, most whole fruit ripening processes were maintained in pericarp discs. Pericarp discs and matched intact fruit passed through the same skin color stages at similar rates, as expressed in the L*a*b* color space, changing from green (a* <-5) to red (a* > 15) in about 6 days. Individual tissues of the pericarp discs changed color in the same sequence seen in intact fruit (exocarp, endocarp, then vascular parenchyma). Discs from different areas changed in the same spatial sequence seen in intact fruit (bottom, middle, top). Pericarp discs exhibited climacteric increases in ethylene biosynthesis and CO production comparable with those seen in intact fruit, but these were more tightly linked to rate of color change, reaching a peak around a* = 5. Tomato pericarp discs decreased in firmness as color changed. Cell wall carbohydrate composition changed with color as in intact fruit: the quantity of water-soluble pectin eluted from the starch-free alcohol insoluble substances steadily increased and more tightly bound, water-insoluble, pectin decreased in inverse relationship. The cell wall content of the neutral sugars arabinose, rhamnose, and galactose steadily decreased as color changed. The extractable activity of specific cell wall hydrolases changed as in intact fruit: polygalacturonase activity, not detectable in green discs (a* = -5), appeared as discs turned yellow-red (a* = 5), and increased another eight-fold as discs became full red (a* value +20). Carboxymethyl-cellulase activity, low in extracts from green discs, increased about six-fold as discs changed from yellow (a* = 0) to red.