Cell Wall Disassembly

Background | Research Program | Publications

We investigate the mechanisms of ripening-associated softening of fruit with the goal of developing molecular genetic strategies to improve fruit quality. We have shown that the genes for many enzymes and proteins that target the polysaccharide polymers in plant cell walls are expressed as fruit ripen. These proteins participate in the disassembly of the cell wall, including the hydrolysis and reorganization of the pectin, hemicelluloses and cellulose polysaccharides in the wall. In tomato, our work began with the enzyme, polygalacturonase (PG), which degrades pectin polymers contributing to softening and senescence that accompanies ripening. We have also studied the roles of endoglucanases and expansins in fruit cell wall disassembly. We have evaluated the roles of many of cell wall disassembling genes in the ripening of other fruit, such as melon (Charentais) and berries. Most of our research now focuses on the role of suites of genes in fruit ripening, plant growth and development and the synergism between different types of hydrolases and proteins in cell wall disassembly.