Biotech Updates

Biologists Discover Process Affecting Fruit Ripening in Crops

November 7, 2012

Biologists at the University of Leicester have discovered plant cell regulation processes affecting chloroplasts, the plant cell parts responsible for photosynthesis. They discovered that chloroplasts are affected by the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS), the breakdown of unwanted proteins in cells. As a result, the researchers believe they can use specific proteins to regulate the functions of chloroplasts including its conversion into highly-pigmented chromoplasts during the ripening of fruit.

The results of their research was published in the journal Science on November 2, and identifies a gene (SP1) in the nuclei of plant cells that codes for a protein called a ubiquitin E3 ligase that regulates chloroplast development through the UPS process. The team are already investigating the potential for harnessing the SP1 gene in other crop, such as tomatoes, bell peppers and citrus.

The research has been funded by grants from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The news release is available at