During the early stages, auxin/GA turns on a feedback loop to activate the removal of ABA via FveCYP707A4a-dependent catabolism needed for fruit growth. Down-regulation of auxin/GA results in the suppression of the feedback loop and the activation of the ABA biosynthesis-dependent feedforward loop, leading to a steep ABA accumulation for fruit ripening. The interlinked regulatory loops provide a conceptual framework that underlies the connection between the regulation of fruit growth and that of ripening as well as a molecular basis for manipulation of fruit sizes and ripening times.
Fruit growth and ripening are controlled by multiple phytohormones. How these hormones coordinate and interact with each other to control these processes at the molecular level is unclear. We found in the early stages of Fragaria vesca (woodland strawberry) fruit development, auxin increases both widths and lengths of fruits, while gibberellin [gibberellic acid (GA)] mainly promotes their longitudinal elongation. Auxin promoted GA biosynthesis and signaling by activating GA biosynthetic and signaling genes, suggesting auxin function is partially dependent on GA function. To prevent the repressive effect of abscisic acid (ABA) on fruit growth, auxin and GA suppressed ABA accumulation during early fruit development by activating the expression of FveCYP707A4a encoding cytochrome P450 monooxygenase that catalyzes ABA catabolism. At the onset of fruit ripening, both auxin and GA levels decreased, leading to a steep increase in the endogenous level of ABA that drives fruit ripening. ABA repressed the expression of FveCYP707A4a but promoted that of FveNCED, a rate-limiting step in ABA biosynthesis. Accordingly, altering FveCYP707A4aexpression changed the endogenous ABA levels and affected FveNCED expression. Hence, ABA catabolism and biosynthesis are tightly linked by feedback and feedforward loops to limit ABA contents for fruit growth and to quickly increase ABA contents for the onset of fruit ripening. These results indicate that FveCYP707A4a not only regulates ABA accumulation but also provides a hub to coordinate fruit size and ripening times by relaying auxin, GA, and ABA signals.