Salinity and ripening on/off the plant effects on lycopene synthesis and chlorophyll breakdown in hybrid Raf tomato

María J. Sánchez-González, Rob E. Schouten*, L.M.M. Tijskens, M. Cruz Sánchez-Guerrero, Evangelina Medrano, Mercedes del Rio-Celestino, Pilar Lorenzo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this study was to describe the physiology of fruit colour in tomato as affected by salinity and ripening on and off the plant. Chlorophyll and lycopene levels were repeatedly measured in ninety Raf tomatoes over a period of eight days using remittance spectroscopy. Fruits were subjected to three salinity levels and were measured either on or off the plant. The physiology of tomato colour was described by a kinetic model centred on the role of STAY-GREEN proteins (SGR) that was calibrated simultaneously on chlorophyll and lycopene data with a percentage variance explained for of 91%. Lycopene precursor and transcript SGR levels were estimated considerably higher for on-plant than for off-plant ripened fruits which indicates ongoing expression while attached to the plant. There is less inhibition of the lycopene precursor by SGR in on plant ripened tomatoes which results in higher maximum lycopene levels and less chlorophyll breakdown causing residual chlorophyll levels. Effects of salinity treatments on chlorophyll breakdown and lycopene synthesis are small, but higher salinity levels strongly diminish fresh weight. Ripening on and off the plant strongly affects colour physiology of tomato fruit and is described well by the proposed model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-212
JournalScientia Horticulturae
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Colour physiology
  • Maturity
  • Remittance spectroscopy
  • STAY-GREEN proteins


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