Isoprenoid Metabolism in Tomato: Involvement in Development and Stress Response

Group Structure

Group Leader: Teresa Altabella (UB Associate Professor), Albert Boronat (UB Full Professor), Albert Ferrer (UB Full Professor)
Researchers: Montserrat Arró
Postdoctoral Researchers: David Manzano, Carmen Mª Romero
PhD Students: Paola Andrade, Julio Bonilla, Daniel Caudepón, Karel De Pourcq, Francesc Hernández-Gras , Juan Alejandro Lara (since January 2013), Nobahar Panahi (since February 2012), Joan Planas (until December 2012), Marta Renato, Idalia Lizbeth Villavicencio
Undergrad or Master Students: Ferran Aguer, Oriol Gené, , Joquim Prats, Antonio Riofrio


Tomato is one of the most widely grown vegetable crops worldwide. Fruit ripening is a complex process, programmed at the genetic level, which involves a series of biochemical processes that modify its texture, pigmentation, flavor and aroma. These changes provide the optimal characteristics for fruit consumption. However, the softening and increased susceptibility to microbial infections during the late stages of ripening result in a rapid deterioration of the fruit. Other relevant characteristics of the fruit are related to postharvest handling and marketing. All these aspects represent important targets in the breeding programs addressed to improve fruit quality. Another aspect related with the growth of tomato is the high susceptibility of the plant to different types of plagues with the resulting economic losses. In this regard it is noteworthy that pest control using pesticides increases the production costs and also represents a risk for consumers and the environment. Therefore the development of pest resistant varieties is a major challenge in sustainable agriculture.

Unlike other plant species, tomato, along with other species of the genus Solanum, shows an atypical content and profile of sterols, in particular sterol conjugates. In addition, drastic changes in the level and the ratio of free and conjugated sterols occur during fruit ripening. The biological and evolutionary significance of the peculiar sterol metabolism in tomato is currently unknown. Recent studies have shown that sterols play an essential role not only in plant growth and development but also in their responses to different types of stress.

The research activities of the group are aimed to get new insights into the metabolism of sterols  in tomato. The identification and characterization of the enzymes involved in the synthesis of sterol conjugates and the cloning of the corresponding genes will allow genetic approaches to generate transgenic plants and select plants with mutations and allelic variants in the genes of interest containing modified sterol content and profiles. The availability of these plants will set the basis to uncover the role of specific sterols in tomato growth and development, fruit ripening and their response to stress, as well as fruit responses to chilling injury and its susceptibility to pathogen attack. Thus, the generated knowledge should contribute not only to a better understanding of the biological function of sterols in tomato but also to the development of novel strategies aimed at improving fruit quality and tolerance to different types of stress.

Research Projects

  • Characterization of  gene families and enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of free and conjugated sterols in tomato.
  • Generation of transgenic tomato lines with altered levels and profiles of free and conjugated sterols to evaluate the role of sterols in plant and fruit development, fruit  ripening, and tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress.
  • Identification and characterization of mutants and allelic variants of genes encoding enzymes involved in sterol metabolism using TILLING and Eco-TILLING.
  • Evaluation of the agronomic performance of selected tomato lines with altered levels and profiles of sterols.

Selected Publications

Alet A.I., Sanchez D.H., Cuevas J.C., Marina M., Carrasco P., Altabella T., Tiburcio A.F., Ruiz O.A.
New insights into the role of spermine in Arabidopsis thaliana under long-term salt stress
(2012) Plant Science, vol. 182 (1), pp. 94-100

Angaman D.M., Petrizzo R., Hernandez-Gras F., Romero-Segura C., Pateraki I., Busquets M., Boronat A.
Precursor uptake assays and metabolic analyses in isolated tomato fruit chromoplasts
(2012) Plant Methods, vol. 8 (1), Art. number 1

Keim V., Manzano D., Fernandez F.J., Closa M., Andrade P., Caudepon D., Bortolotti C., Vega M.C., Arro M., Ferrer A.
Characterization of Arabidopsis FPS Isozymes and FPS Gene Expression Analysis Provide Insight into the Biosynthesis of Isoprenoid Precursors in Seeds
(2012) PLoS ONE, vol. 7 (11), Art. number e49109

Marco F., Alcazar R., Altabella T., Tiburcio A.F., Carrasco P., Gill S.S., Tuteja N.
Polyamines in Developing Stress-Resistant Crops
(2012) Improving Crop Resistance to Abiotic Stress, vol. 1, pp. 623-635

Perez-Gil J., Uros E.M., Sauret-Gueto S., Lois L.M., Kirby J., Nishimoto M., Baidoo E.E.K., Keasling J.D., Boronat A., Rodriguez-Concepcion M.
Mutations in Escherichia coli aceE and ribB genes allow survival of strains defective in the first step of the isoprenoid biosynthesis pathway
(2012) PLoS ONE, vol. 7 (8), Art. number e43775

Aguayo M.F., Ampuero D., Mandujano P., Parada R., Munoz R., Gallart M., Altabella T., Cabrera R., Stange C., Handford M.
Sorbitol dehydrogenase is a cytosolic protein required for sorbitol metabolism in Arabidopsis thaliana
(2013) Plant Science, vol. 205-206, pp. 63-75

Carretero-Paulet L., Cairo A., Talavera D., Saura A., Imperial S., Rodriguez-Concepcion M., Campos N., Boronat A.
Functional and evolutionary analysis of DXL1, a non-essential gene encoding a 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase like protein in arabidopsis thaliana
(2013) Gene, vol. 524 (1), pp. 40-53

Doblas V.G., Amorim-Silva V., Pose D., Rosado A., Esteban A., Arro M., Azevedo H., Bombarely A., Borsani O., Valpuesta V., Ferrer A., Tavares R.M., Botella M.A.
The SUD1 gene encodes a putative E3 ubiquitin ligase and is a positive regulator of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme a reductase activity in Arabidopsis
(2013) Plant Cell, vol. 25 (2), pp. 728-743

Houshyani B., Assareh M., Busquets A., Ferrer A., Bouwmeester H.J., Kappers I.F.
Three-step pathway engineering results in more incidence rate and higher emission of nerolidol and improved attraction of Diadegma semiclausum
(2013) Metabolic Engineering, vol. 15 (1), pp. 88-97

Pateraki I., Renato M., Azcon-Bieto J., Boronat A.
An ATP synthase harboring an atypical γ-subunit is involved in ATP synthesis in tomato fruit chromoplasts
(2013) Plant Journal, vol. 74 (1), pp. 74-85

Planas-Portell J., Gallart M., Tiburcio A.F., Altabella T.
Copper-containing amine oxidases contribute to terminal polyamine oxidation in peroxisomes and apoplast of Arabidopsis thaliana
(2013) BMC Plant Biology, vol. 13 (1), Art. number 109