European, Chinese and Japanese pear fruits exhibit differential softening characteristics during ripening

Kyoko Hiwasa, Ryohei Nakano, Akiko Hashimoto, Mikio Matsuzaki, Hideki Murayama, Akitsugu Inaba, Yasutaka Kubo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


Softening characteristics were investigated in three types of pear fruit, namely, European pear 'La France', Chinese pear 'Yali', and Japanese pear 'Nijisseiki'. 'La France' fruit softened dramatically and developed a melting texture during ripening, while 'Yali' fruit with and without propylene treatment showed no change in flesh firmness and texture during ripening. Non-treated 'Nijisseiki' did not show a detectable decrease in flesh firmness, whereas continuous propylene treatment caused a gradual decrease in firmness resulting in a mealy texture. In 'La France', the analysis of cell wall polysaccharides revealed distinct solubilization and depolymerization of pectin and hemicellulose during fruit softening. In 'Nijisseiki', propylene treatment led to the solubilization and depolymerization of pectic polysaccharides to a limited extent, but not of hemicellulose. In 'Yali', hemicellulose polysaccharides were depolymerized during ripening, but there was hardly any change in pectic polysaccharides except in the water-soluble fraction. PC-PG1 and PC-PG2, two polygalacturonase (PG) genes, were expressed in 'La France' fruit during ripening, while only PC-PG2 was expressed in 'Nijisseiki' and neither PC-PG1 or PC-PG2 was expressed in 'Yali'. The expression pattern of PC-XET1 was constitutive during ripening in all three pear types. PG activity measured by the reducing sugar assay increased in all three pears during ripening. However, viscometric measurements showed that the levels of endo-PG activity were high in 'La France', low in 'Nijisseiki', and undetectable in 'Yali' fruits. These results suggest that, in pears, cell wall degradation is correlated with a decrease in firmness during ripening and the modification of both pectin and hemicellulose are essential for the development of a melting texture. Furthermore, the data suggest that different softening behaviours during ripening among the three pear fruits may be caused by different endo-PG activity and different expression of PG genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2281-2290
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of experimental botany
Issue number406
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2004


  • Cell wall modification
  • Enzyme activity
  • Fruit softening
  • Gene expression
  • Pear fruit
  • Polygalacturonase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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