Abscisic acid triggers whole-plant and fruit-specific mechanisms to increase fruit calcium uptake and prevent blossom end rot development in tomato fruit

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Calcium (Ca) uptake into fruit and leaves is dependent on xylemic water movement, and hence presumably driven by transpiration and growth. High leaf transpiration is thought to restrict Ca movement to low-transpiring tomato fruit, which may increase fruit susceptibility to the Ca-deficiency disorder, blossom end rot (BER). The objective of this study was to analyse the effect of reduced leaf transpiration in abscisic acid (ABA)-treated plants on fruit and leaf Ca uptake and BER development. Tomato cultivars Ace 55 (Vf) and AB2 were grown in a greenhouse environment under Ca-deficit conditions and plants were treated weekly after pollination with water (control) or 500 mg l21 ABA. BER incidence was completely prevented in the ABA-treated plants and reached values of 30–45% in the water-treated controls. ABA-treated plants had higher stem water potential, lower leaf stomatal conductance, and lower wholeplant water loss than water-treated plants. ABA treatment increased total tissue and apoplastic water-soluble Ca concentrations in the fruit, and decreased Ca concentrations in leaves. In ABA-treated plants, fruit had a higher number of Safranin-O-stained xylem vessels at early stages of growth and development. ABA treatment reduced the phloem/xylem ratio of fruit sap uptake. The results indicate that ABA prevents BER development by increasing fruit Ca uptake, possibly by a combination of whole-plant and fruit-specific mechanisms.

Sergio Tonetto de Freitas
Kenneth A. Shackel
Elizabeth J. Mitcham
Journal of Experimental Botany