The identification of a gene (Cwp1), silenced during Solanum evolution, which causes cuticle microfissuring and dehydration when expressed in tomato fruit


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One of the most intriguing phenomena of fleshy fruit is the ability to maintain high water content at maturity, even following harvest. This is accomplished by a fruit cuticle that is highly impermeable to water diffusion. In this paper, we report on a novel genotype of tomato, developed via introgression from the wild species Solanum habrochaites, which is characterized by microfissuring of the fruit cuticle and dehydration of the mature fruit. The microfissure/dehydration phenotype is inherited as a single gene, termed Cwp1 (cuticular water permeability). The gene was fine mapped, and its identity was determined by map-based cloning and differential expression analysis in near-isogenic lines. Causality of the Cwp1 gene was shown by the heterologous transgenic expression of the gene in the cultivated tomato, which caused a microfissured fruit cuticle leading to dehydrated fruit. Cwp1 encodes for a protein of unidentified function in the DUF833 domain family. The gene is expressed in the fruit epidermis of the dehydrating genotype harbouring the wild-species introgression, but not in the cultivated tomato. It is expressed only in the primitive green-fruited wild tomato species, but is not expressed in the cultivated Solanum lycopersicum and the closely related Solanum cheesmaniae and Solanum pimpinellifolium, indicating a pre-adaptive role for Cwp1 silencing in the evolution and domestication of the cultivated tomato.