Cell and tissue dynamics of olive endocarp sclerification vary according to water availability



Endocarp developmental timing in drupe-type fruits, involving tissue expansion and sclerification processes, is increasingly used as marker for biological studies and crop management. In spite of its wide application, however, little is known regarding how these morphogenetic processes unfold or the factors that modify it. This study evaluates endocarp expansion and sclerification of olive (Olea europaea) fruits, used as an example of drupe-type fruits, from trees growing under different water regimes: full irrigated, deficit irrigated (moderate reduction of water availability) and rainfed (severe reduction of water availability). Fruits were sampled weekly until pit hardening, and fruit and endocarp areas were evaluated in histological preparations. An image analysis process was tested and adjusted to quantify sclerified area and distribution within the endocarp. Individual stone cells differentiated independently but distribution and timing indicated the overall coordination of endocarp tissue sclerification. Increase in sclerified area was initially gradual, accelerated abruptly the week prior to the end of endocarp expansion and then continued at an intermediate rate. These results suggest that the end of the expansion period is driven by sclerification and the morphogenetic signals involved act first on sclerification rather than endocarp size. Intensification of sclerification and the end of expansive growth occurred first with lowest water supply. Moderate and severe reductions in water availability proportionately decreased endocarp expansion and prolonged the sclerification, delaying the date of physically perceived hardening but not affecting the final degree of endocarp sclerification.