Co-mapping studies of QTLs for fruit acidity and candidate genes of organic acid metabolism and proton transport in sweet melon (Cucumis melo L.)

S Cohen, G Tzuri, R Harel-Beja, M Itkin, V Portnoy, U Sa'ar, S Lev, L Yeselson, M Petrikov, I Rogachev, A Aharoni, R Ophir, Y Tadmor, E Lewinsohn, Y Burger, N Katzir, A A Schaffer
TAG. Theoretical and Applied Genetics. Theoretische und Angewandte Genetik 2012, 125 (2): 343-53
Sweet melon cultivars contain a low level of organic acids and, therefore, the quality and flavor of sweet melon fruit is determined almost exclusively by fruit sugar content. However, genetic variability for fruit acid levels in the Cucumis melo species exists and sour fruit accessions are characterized by acidic fruit pH of <5, compared to the sweet cultivars that are generally characterized by mature fruit pH values of >6. In this paper, we report results from a mapping population based on recombinant inbred lines (RILs) derived from the cross between the non-sour 'Dulce' variety and the sour PI 414323 accession. Results show that a single major QTL for pH co-localizes with major QTLs for the two predominant organic acids in melon fruit, citric and malic, together with an additional metabolite which we identified as uridine. While the acidic recombinants were characterized by higher citric and malic acid levels, the non-acidic recombinants had a higher uridine content than did the acidic recombinants. Additional minor QTLs for pH, citric acid and malic acid were also identified and for these the increased acidity was unexpectedly contributed by the non-sour parent. To test for co-localization of these QTLs with genes encoding organic acid metabolism and transport, we mapped the genes encoding structural enzymes and proteins involved in organic acid metabolism, transport and vacuolar H+ pumps. None of these genes co-localized with the major pH QTL, indicating that the gene determining melon fruit pH is not one of the candidate genes encoding this primary metabolic pathway. Linked markers were tested in two additional inter-varietal populations and shown to be linked to the pH trait. The presence of the same QTL in such diverse segregating populations suggests that the trait is determined throughout the species by variability in the same gene and is indicative of a major role of the evolution of this gene in determining the important domestication trait of fruit acidity within the species.

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