Abscisic acid deficiency in the tomato mutant high-pigment 3 leading to increased plastid number and higher fruit lycopene content


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Carotenoids are present in most tissues of higher plants where they play a variety of essential roles. To study the regulation of carotenoid biosynthesis, we have isolated novel mutations in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) with altered pigmentation of fruit or flowers. Here we describe the isolation and analysis of a tomato mutant, high-pigment 3 (hp3), that accumulates 30% more carotenoids in the mature fruit. Higher concentrations of carotenoids and chlorophyll were also measured in leaves and the pericarp of green fruit. The mutation in hp3 had occurred in the gene for zeaxanthin epoxidase (Zep), which converts zeaxanthin to violaxanthin. Consequently, leaves of the mutant lack violaxanthin and neoxanthin, and flowers contain only minute quantities of these xanthophylls. The concentration in the hp3 mutant of abscisic acid (ABA), which is derived from xanthophylls, is 75% lower than the normal level, making hp3 an ABA-deficient mutant. The plastid compartment size in fruit cells is at least twofold larger in hp3 plants compared with the wild-type. The transcript level in the green fruit of FtsZ, which encodes a tubulin-like protein involved in plastid division, is 60% higher in hp3 than in the wild-type, suggesting that increased plastid division is responsible for this phenomenon. Elevated fruit pigmentation and plastid compartment size were also observed in the ABA-deficient mutants flacca and sitiens. Taken together, these results suggest that ABA deficiency in the tomato mutant hp3 leads to enlargement of the plastid compartment size, probably by increasing plastid division, thus enabling greater biosynthesis and a higher storage capacity of the pigments.