ABSTRACT: Perception of the plant hormone ethylene is essential to initiate and advance ripening of climacteric fruits. Since ethylene receptors negatively regulate signaling, the suppression is canceled upon ethylene binding, permitting responses including fruit ripening. Although receptors have autophosphorylation activity, the mechanism whereby signal transduction occurs has not been fully determined. Here we demonstrate that LeETR4, a critical receptor for tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) fruit ripening, is multiply phosphorylated in vivo and the phosphorylation level is dependent on ripening stage and ethylene action. Treatment of preclimacteric fruits with ethylene resulted in accumulation of LeETR4 with reduced phosphorylation whereas treatments of ripening fruits with ethylene antagonists, 1-methylcyclopropene and 2,5-norbornadiene, induced accumulation of the phosphorylated isotypes. A similar phosphorylation pattern was also observed for Never ripe, another ripening-related receptor. Alteration in the phosphorylation state of receptors is likely to be an initial response upon ethylene binding since treatments with ethylene and 1-methylcyclopropene rapidly influenced the LeETR4 phosphorylation state rather than protein abundance. The LeETR4 phosphorylation state closely paralleled ripening progress, suggesting that the phosphorylation state of receptors is implicated in ethylene signal output in tomato fruits. We provide insights into the nature of receptor on and off states.
Plant physiology 07/2012; 160(1):488-97. · 6.53 Impact Factor