KNOX genes influence a gradient of fruit chloroplast development through regulation of GOLDEN2-LIKE expression in tomato



The chlorophyll content of unripe fleshy fruits is positively correlated with the nutrient content and flavor of ripe fruit. In tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) fruit, the uniform ripening (u) locus, which encodes a GOLDEN 2-LIKE transcription factor (SlGLK2), influences a gradient of chloroplast development that extends from the stem end of the fruit surrounding the calyx to the base of the fruit. With the exception of the u locus, the factors that influence the formation of this developmental gradient are unknown. In this study, characterization and positional cloning of the uniform gray-green (ug) locus of tomato reveals a thus far unknown role for the Class I KNOTTED1-LIKE HOMEOBOX (KNOX) gene, TKN4, in specifying the formation of this chloroplast gradient. The involvement of KNOX in fruit chloroplast development was confirmed through characterization of the Curl (Cu) mutant, a dominant gain-of-function mutation of TKN2, which displays ectopic fruit chloroplast development that resembles SlGLK2 over-expression. TKN2 and TKN4 act upstream of SlGLK2 and the related gene ARABIDOPSIS PSEUDO RESPONSE REGULATOR 2-LIKE (SlAPRR2-LIKE) to establish their latitudinal gradient of expression across developing fruit that leads to a gradient of chloroplast development. Class I KNOX genes typically influence plant morphology through maintenance of meristem activity, but this study identifies a role for TKN2 and TKN4 in specifically influencing chloroplast development in fruit but not leaves, suggesting that this fundamental process is differentially regulated in these two organs.