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Fruit phenotype is a resultant of inherent genetic potential in interaction with impact of environment experienced during crop and fruit growth. The aim of this study was to analyze the genetic and physiological basis for the difference in fruit size between a small (‘Brioso’) and intermediate (‘Cappricia’) sized tomato cultivar exposed to different fruit temperatures. It was hypothesized that fruit heating enhances expression of cell cycle and expansion genes, rates of carbon import, cell division and expansion, and shortens growth duration, whereas increase in cell number intensifies competition for assimilates among cells. Unlike previous studies in which whole-plant and fruit responses cannot be separated, we investigated the temperature response by varying fruit temperature using climate-controlled cuvettes, while keeping plant temperature the same. Fruit phenotype was assessed at different levels of aggregation (whole fruit, cell and gene) between anthesis and breaker stage. We showed that: (1) final fruit fresh weight was larger in ‘Cappricia’ owing to more and larger pericarp cells, (2) heated fruits were smaller because their mesocarp cells were smaller than those of control fruits and (3) no significant differences in pericarp carbohydrate concentration were detected between heated and control fruits nor between cultivars at breaker stage. At the gene level, expression of cell division promoters (CDKB2, CycA1 and E2Fe-like) was higher while that of the inhibitory fw2.2 was lower in ‘Cappricia’. Fruit heating increased expression of fw2.2 and three cell division promoters (CDKB1, CDKB2 and CycA1). Expression of cell expansion genes did not corroborate cell size observations.
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