Mounet F, Moing A, Kowalczyk M, Rohrmann J, Petit J, Garcia V, Maucourt M, Yano K, Deborde C, Aoki K, Bergès H, Granell A, Fernie AR, Bellini C, Rothan C, Lemaire-Chamley M.
The PIN-FORMED (PIN) auxin efflux transport protein family has been well characterized in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, where these proteins are crucial for auxin regulation of various aspects of plant development. Recent evidence indicates that PIN proteins may play a role in fruit set and early fruit development in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), but functional analyses of PIN-silenced plants failed to corroborate this hypothesis. Here it is demonstrated that silencing specifically the tomato SlPIN4 gene, which is predominantly expressed in tomato flower bud and young developing fruit, leads to parthenocarpic fruits due to precocious fruit development before fertilization. This phenotype was associated with only slight modifications of auxin homeostasis at early stages of flower bud development and with minor alterations of ARF and Aux/IAA gene expression. However, microarray transcriptome analysis and large-scale quantitative RT-PCR profiling of transcription factors in developing flower bud and fruit highlighted differentially expressed regulatory genes, which are potential targets for auxin control of fruit set and development in tomato. In conclusion, this work provides clear evidence that the tomato PIN protein SlPIN4 plays a major role in auxin regulation of tomato fruit set, possibly by preventing precocious fruit development in the absence of pollination, and further gives new insights into the target genes involved in fruit set.